Luke DeCock

Without Coach K, Duke surmounts Wake and flu bug with relative ease

Duke rolls over Wake Forest with Jeff Capel in the driver's seat

Blue Devils' Associate head coach takes over for an ailing Mike Krzyzewski and is pleased with the teams effort against the Demon Deacons in 89-71 victory.
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Blue Devils' Associate head coach takes over for an ailing Mike Krzyzewski and is pleased with the teams effort against the Demon Deacons in 89-71 victory.

If Gary Trent Jr. couldn’t make it through the game without barfing in a bucket on the Duke bench, imagine how Mike Krzyzewski must be feeling. For the second time in three seasons, the Duke coach missed a game due to illness, this time Saturday’s 89-71 win over Wake Forest, as the flu outbreak that’s tearing through the country takes its toll here.

Krzyzewski woke up ill Saturday, decided he didn’t want to get his team sick and decided to stay away, once again turning things over to associate head coach Jeff Capel in what has become a familiar routine for the Blue Devils in recent years.

“He didn’t want to get our guys sick or put anybody else in jeopardy,” Capel said afterward. “But he’s better.”

Duke is of course used to this by now, with Capel stepping in not only in 2016 at Georgia Tech but the seven games Krzyzewski missed after back surgery last season, but not usually with this little advance notice. It may be a new experience for the freshmen, but the timing was the only thing new about it for a senior like Grayson Allen.

“It is a little bit different, but we’re used to seeing this before,” Allen said. “And one, he’s still in the building somewhere, and two, we have faith in coach Capel.”

As for the flu, it’s all too familiar too. It’s everywhere right now. Both the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals played their healthiest 18 skaters Friday night, with both NHL teams battling the same virus. The Centers for Disease Control said Friday that flu activity is “widespread and intense,” and the season has the potential to be one of the worst in years, with this year’s flu shot less effective than usual – not a failure of the system, but an unfortunate and unavoidable consequence of predicting flu strains with enough lead time to mass-produce the vaccine.

Trent was also a game-time decision Saturday, deciding to play and, as it turned out, playing well. Were it not for his public puking, there wouldn’t have been any other way to tell Trent was sick, the way he was throwing up (sorry) 3-pointers on his way to 19 points. He must have felt better than Krzyzewski, as lightheaded as he said he was at times.

So who else is sick?

“As of right now, nobody, I don’t think,” Trent said. “We’ve got to contain it. Make sure we wash our hands.”

Duke forward Wendell Carter Jr (34) wrestles for a loose ball with Wake Forest center Doral Moore (4) in the second half. Chuck Liddy

With Wendell Carter Jr. and Marvin Bagley III getting Wake Forest’s bigs in early foul trouble, the outcome was never really in doubt, even as Allen went without a field goal on his way to falling just short of a really weird double-double with two points, 12 rebounds and eight assists on 0-for-5 shooting. (Carter and Bagley both had garden-variety double-doubles.)

Duke freshman Marvin Bagley lll talks about his desire to work hard and improve every game.

Given that, and the changes Duke has tried to make in the wake of last Saturday’s N.C. State loss, if not explicitly because of it – more intensity on defense and going deeper on the bench even with Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier out, although that’s easier in blowouts like this one and Wednesday’s win at Pittsburgh – Saturday represented another step forward in the development of a very inexperienced team that’s trying to figure things out, especially given the flu casualties.

At the moment, the virus in the Duke locker room is apparently contained to Krzyzewski and Trent, but everyone remains concerned it about it spreading.

“I hope not, I really hope not,” Allen said. “Fist bumps around here. No shaking hands.”

There were lots of fist bumps after that one. Now it’s a quick turnaround to Miami on Monday, maybe with Krzyzewski, maybe not, but either way, Duke’s used to it by now.

Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947,, @LukeDeCock

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