November 04, 2014

Mike Krzyzewski is the winningest coach in Division I history and there's a good chance Jim Boeheim will eventually join him in the 1,000-win club.

Both are relying heavily this season on post players that are drawing plenty of attention from defenses.

Fourth-ranked Duke will be looking to get the ball inside to star freshman Jahlil Okafor while Syracuse's Rakeem Christmas has also been a force down low heading into their first matchup Saturday evening at the Carrier Dome.

Krzyzewski now has 1,004 wins and Boeheim is second among active Division I coaches with 964 as they meet for the fifth time. These coaches met for the first time as ACC rivals last season when they split two meetings, with Boeheim memorably getting ejected in the last one - a 66-60 loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Feb. 22.

The big difference now is that Duke (21-3, 8-3) has Okafor, who is second in the nation in field-goal percentage at 66.5. He has scored in double figures in all 24 games, breaking Johnny Dawkins' record for the longest streak by a Blue Devils freshman.

Okafor is averaging 18.0 points - the same mark Christmas has to rank both players second in the conference. It's been a meteoric rise for the Orange senior, who never averaged more than 5.8 points in any of his first three seasons.

His improvement has resulted in plenty of double-teaming by opponents, as was the case in Syracuse's 70-56 win at Boston College on Wednesday. Christmas was limited to a season-low seven points as he took only eight shots while playing the entire game for the fifth straight time.

"I thought Rak was patient, I thought he was good in terms of just trying to get people open shots," Boeheim said.

Defenses have also focused on Okafor, who did not take a shot in the first half Monday before making all five the rest of the way to finish with 13 points in a 73-70 victory at Florida State.

A Duke team that starts three freshmen instead recorded its seventh win in eight games behind senior guard Quinn Cook, who scored a season-high 26 points.

"It's big time for a young team," Cook said. "This was our first one-possession game with a young team and we executed what coach wanted us to do."

The Blue Devils improved to 4-2 in ACC road games to match their win total from nine such contests last season.

"I like the fact that our team has always been excited to play, they've never been nervous on the road," Krzyzewski said. "They've always kind of come together and played some of their best basketball of the season."

Syracuse (16-8, 7-4) is second in the ACC with 8.5 steals per game and had nine Wednesday. Michael Gbinije scored 21 points and has averaged 19.5 in his past four - 8.8 above his average from his first 19 games.

''We have guys who can finish and guys who are strong and can make plays,'' junior guard Trevor Cooney said. ''We have guys that can shoot it, so you have to respect us out there. I think that's the thing we're really good at.''

Cook made 4 of 23 shots for 16 points last season against Syracuse while Christmas totaled 13 points, 13 boards and seven blocks in those games for the Orange.

You May Like

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)