Duke should be plenty rested up when the ninth-ranked Blue Devils go into Tuesday night’s game against Pittsburgh in Durham, N.C.
This matchup is sure to bring some emotions as former Duke player and associate head coach Jeff Capel is back in the building as Pittsburgh’s coach.
“I’m excited about the challenge,” Capel said. “Anytime you get a chance to play against one of the best teams and one of the best programs. Hopefully, we can play well.”
This will be Capel’s first time coaching in Cameron Indoor Stadium as the opponent. The teams met once last season in Pittsburgh, with Duke winning.
He was a player and assistant under Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski, even filling in as acting coach when Krzyzewski missed a few games in recent seasons.
“I learned a lot when I played there,” Capel said. “I probably learned more as an assistant. I cherish my time there as a player. I cherish my time there as an assistant.”
Duke (16-3, 6-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) snapped a two-game skid last Tuesday night by hammering Miami. That 89-59 outcome gave the Blue Devils a good feeling going into a week-long layoff.
“We got a little bit of a break from competition,” Krzyzewski said. “That’s a good thing for us to get rejuvenated after eight conference games.”
The Blue Devils have insisted that they must be the more aggressive team, something that might have wavered in their losses this month.
“I think it just starts with the energy,” guard Tre Jones said. “When we do the things that we can control, like talking, playing defense, flying around like that, rebounding, it translates to our offense. We wanted to get back to having a hungry mindset.”
Part of Duke’s bounce-back performance included 22 points from freshman forward Matthew Hurt, who made 8 of 11 shots from the field and bagged four 3-point shots in the Miami game.
“I’m just shooting the ball with a lot more confidence,” Hurt said. “It took a little bit to get my shot off, but once I get into a groove every shot that I shoot, I feel like it’s going in.”
Duke has won seven games by 30 or more points this season. Four of those have come in ACC play.
The Blue Devils’ strong play on offense has been aided by five games in which they’ve committed 10 or fewer turnovers.
There’s no certain area to address when preparing for the Blue Devils.
“I think they’re as good as any team in the country,” Capel said. “I think they have good, quality depth. … I think guys understand roles.”
Pittsburgh (13-7, 4-5) won two games in a row before failing in a comeback bid Saturday at Syracuse.
A trouble spot for the Panthers has been falling into early holes. They trailed Boston College and Syracuse by double figures in the first half of games last week.
Pittsburgh freshman forward Justin Champagnie averaged 15.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in two outings last week. He shot a combined 13 for 20 in the two games.
The Panthers are 1-3 in ACC road games, the victory coming at North Carolina on Jan. 8.
–Field Level Media