Student will face mentor when Pitt hosts No. 2 Duke
Duke has dipped out of the No. 1 spot in the country, but the Blue Devils showed they still can accomplish big things without one of their top players with their win over previously unbeaten Virginia on Saturday.
And they'll need to again Tuesday night at Pittsburgh, the first road game for No. 2 Duke since point guard Tre Jones went out with a separated shoulder. Coach Mike Krzyzewski said Monday that Jones is doubtful to play against the Panthers.
When the teams meet at Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh, it will be a matchup with a huge subplot: Pittsburgh coach Jeff Capel in his first assignment against his mentor and former team.
Capel, a former Duke player, spent seven seasons (2011-18) on Krzyzewski's staff, even filling in for him in several games when the Hall of Fame coach missed time.
"It will probably be weird, especially with Coach," Capel, 43, said. "It's a man who means so much in my life, and still does. It's a guy who I've had a relationship with since I've been 16 years old."
The teams are slated to just meet once this season.
"I knew when I took this job that we would face them being a league opponent," Capel said.
Capel is one of six former Duke players under Krzyzewski now holding a position as a Division I head coach.
Krzyzewski said he'll take the same approach he has in the past when the opposing coach is someone he has been close to.
"You don't pay attention to the coach, you compete against the team," he said.
As for Capel, there's a longtime connection.
"I love him," Krzyzewski said. "He's doing a great job and that's not unexpected. He did an unbelievable job for me."
With its 72-70 defeat of Virginia on Saturday night, Duke (15-2, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) moved to 5-1 this season against teams within the top 15 in national polls.
Minus Jones, the Blue Devils moved forward RJ Barrett, the ACC's leading scorer at 23.8 points per game, into a role that involved more ball handling.
Even with that, Barrett was up to the task as a point producer with 30 points.
"It's nothing new," Barrett said of having the ball in his hands. "I just happen to be the one bringing (the ball) up. Other than that, I was doing the same stuff."
Duke's approach and subsequent success without Jones didn't come as a surprise to Capel.
"It's in moments like that, that's when Coach is at his best," he said. "The way he is able to rally everyone around him. ... and get them to believe."
The Blue Devils were credited with 46 points in the paint in the Virginia game. That helped make up for 2-for-14 shooting on 3-pointers.
The Blue Devils had good ball movement at times against Virginia's touted defense.
"We were able to move their defense enough, not every time, but enough to get some driving lanes," Krzyzewski said.
Barrett had three of Duke's season-low six assists in the game. So there was an altered element to the game.
"Tre helps us distribute the ball but we're all pretty good distributors," Duke freshman Cam Reddish said. "We missed Tre, obviously, but overall it was pretty normal."
Duke stuck mostly to starters in the Virginia game. Javin DeLaurier and Alex O'Connell were scoreless in a combined 12 minutes.
Pittsburgh (12-6, 2-3) is coming off a 74-63 loss Saturday at Syracuse.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 21, 2019