DURHAM, N.C.—Before Wednesday night’s game versus the Bradley Braves in Durham, Duke guards Kyrie Irving and Nolan Smith led the Blue Devils in points per game. Together, their 281 points accounted for nearly 40 percent of Duke’s offense in the team’s unblemished 8—0 start. But after breaking the big toe of his right foot during a weekend win against Butler, Irving is out indefinitely. And Smith, who missed everything but two of his four free throw attempts Wednesday night, only scored two points. It wasn’t the win the Duke faithful might have expected, but it was a crucial one nonetheless.
After scoring less points than they’ve scored in any half this season, Duke returned to trounce the Braves at Cameron Indoor Stadium, winning by 35 points and earning Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski his 15th 9—0 start in 31 seasons in Durham. The victory is Krzyzewski’s 877th as a college basketball coach, making him the third most winning coach in college basketball history.
More immediately, though, Duke’s rout of Bradley showcased the team’s versatility on a night when its stars weren’t exactly shining. Sophomore Andre Dawkins earned his first start in Irving’s absence. He took full advantage, too, scoring a career-high 28 points off of eight three-pointers. Fellow sophomores Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry also contributed from beyond the arc. Senior forward Kyle Singler exacted his shooting in the second half, hitting a trio of three-pointers while adding three assists. Defensively, he limited Bradley’s leading scorer, Andrew Warren, to only seven. And though Smith missed each of his eight attempted field goals, he contributed 10 assists. His passes inside to Miles Plumlee helped the older Plumlee—who hadn’t scored more than 10 points in any game since last season until tonight—break his recent slump with 14 points. Without Irving, Duke will need his help.
Don’t expect Irving soon, either: Krzyzewski said that the injury, which didn’t manifest itself until after Saturday’s win against Butler, was a serious one being analyzed by a team of specialists across the country.
“He could be out for a long time. He could be out [for the year],” said Krzyzewski. “When a great player gets hurt and can’t play, it changes everything.”
Duke plays Saint Louis Saturday, Dec. 11, at noon in Durham.