DURHAM, N.C. — Mike Krzyzewski gave a quick wave to the Cameron Crazies and a few claps as he walked off the floor and headed to the locker room.
The Hall of Fame coach treated it like any other Duke win at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The only notable difference? The message on the scoreboard above that read “Coach K On the Move” while noting his latest milestone victory.
Kyle Singler scored 24 points to help No. 1 Duke beat Elon 98-72 on Monday night, moving Krzyzewski into a tie for second place with Dean Smith on the all-time wins list.
Nolan Smith added 22 points as the Blue Devils (11-0), who didn’t quite have the easiest time with a team that is 0-3 in the Southern Conference. Still, Krzyzewski is now even with the man who led rival North Carolina for 36 seasons before retiring in 1997 as the winningest coach Division I history.
“It’s an honor to have won that many games,” Krzyzewski said. “I’m sure Dean would say the same thing, that it was an honor for him to win that many games. I have the utmost respect for Dean — the fact that we’ve been really good coaches in this league … he was at his school a long time and I’ve been here a long time.
“I know we’ve both realized we wouldn’t have won as many games without being at these schools. Again, I know it’s like a milestone, but I’m more interested in how we become a better team this year.”
Krzyzewski, in his 36th season as a head coach, can pass Smith by beating North Carolina-Greensboro at the Greensboro Coliseum on Dec. 29. That would leave only Bobby Knight ahead of him, as Knight passed Smith with 902 wins before retiring almost three years ago.
“Coach looks like he’s just starting,” Nolan Smith said. “He’s fresh. He’s eager for more wins. He’s in his prime right now. I feel like he had many more years to go and he loves winning. If you love winning as much as Coach K does, you’re never going to quit.”
It’s the latest milestone in a historic few weeks for Krzyzewski, who tied and passed Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp — who held the wins record before Smith — with wins against Butler and Bradley earlier this month.
“To be honest, we really haven’t talked about (the records) much,” Singler said. “He’s a fiery guy and he puts in our mind to just play for ourselves and play for the team. Whether Coach is breaking records or we’re breaking records, it really doesn’t matter as long as we’re winning each and every game that we play.”
That proved to be a little tougher than expected, even if the Blue Devils were in no real danger of dropping this one.
Coming off a nine-day exam break, Duke looked flat and a step slow against a program that had never played the nation’s top-ranked team since moving to Division I in the 1999-2000 season. In fact, outside of that 14-0 spurt that gave the Blue Devils a 21-8 lead on Singler’s 3-pointer with 12½ minutes before halftime, Elon (4-7) played Duke even over the next 26 minutes and trailed just 75-62 on a pair of free throws from Chris Long with 6:34 to play.
The Blue Devils finally closed it out with an 8-0 spurt led by Smith, who sat for about 9 minutes of the second half after picking up his fourth foul. First, he rebounded a missed jumper from Ryley Beaumont and led the break before finding Andre Dawkins for a 3 from the right wing while drawing a foul from Long.
Dawkins made the free throw, then Seth Curry added a pair of free throws before Smith capped the spurt with a jumper that made it 83-62 with 5:32 left. Elon got no closer than 17 points the rest of the night, with Duke getting three straight 3s from Dawkins, Smith and Ryan Kelly to make the score look a lot more lopsided than the game actually was.
Jack Isenbarger scored 21 points to lead Elon.
“What we just said to our players in the locker room is: we are proud of you, but we want more and that’s where we are as a program,” Matheny said. “We want to be consistent with competitive toughness and we want to be able to be on the national stage more, and we have to earn that right.”
Duke has now won 21 straight games dating back to last season’s run to the Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA tournament titles, and 29 of 30 overall.
Duke played its third straight game without freshman point guard Kyrie Irving, who is out indefinitely with an injury to his right big toe and is wearing a cast.
Krzyzewski said Irving recently met with a specialist and the team is getting updates on his condition roughly every 10 days, but he again said “it’ll be a long time” before Irving can return — if at all — this season.