GREENSBORO — What took Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski six years to accomplish his replacement pulled off in year one. First-year Duke coach Jon Scheyer led the Blue Devils to the ACC Tournament title, the 22nd in school history, with a 59-49 win over Virginia in Greensboro on Saturday.
Scheyer appeared to be fighting back tears as he watched his players celebrate on the podium after accepting the ACC Championship trophy.
“It was a surreal feeling for me because for every one of these guys to be here — of course, it’s Duke University and Duke basketball and the history that we have and the platform and all those things are, I would say, a big reason why these guys wanted to come here. But also they believed in us and in me, and obviously I felt that way about each of them,” Scheyer said.
“To share that together, going through this for the first time, and for the regular season to end this way with winning the tournament championship is really special. Along the way — I’ll tell these guys if we can ever get together, but just enjoy the wins along the way. Winning a championship is a special thing, so I want to enjoy this tonight. I want these guys to enjoy it.”
The win helped Duke avenge a controversial loss at Virginia in the regular season. It also gave the Blue Devils wins over four of the six ACC teams that beat them this season over the last six games.
“The way he responded to adversity, and the way he handled it,” assistant coach Chris Carrawell said of Scheyer, “to do it in your first year was incredible. A lot of veteran coaches never do it.”
The Blue Devils expected a tough game against Virginia. The whiteboard in the locker room had instructions on playing physical, then concluded with the phrase, “Go take it!!”
Duke did just that, never trailing and leading by as many as 14 as their defense throttled the Cavaliers, who shot 27.3% in the first half and 33.3% for the game, including just 4 of 17 on 3-pointers.
“Before the game, (Scheyer) said go out and take it, really be aggressive,” said Jeremy Roach, who scored a game-high 23 points. “Don’t let them get comfortable or anything like that. We wanted to be the aggressors the first four minutes, and I kind of wanted to set the tone for this game, and I think I did.”
“We wanted to play the way we play,” said freshman Kyle Filipowski, who scored 20 and won the MVP award for the tournament. “We just wanted to play the way we were and make a statement.”
While the first message on the whiteboard was written in well-formed, neat handwriting, clearly part of an organized pregame message to the team, another message was scrawled across the bottom, possibly scribbled on there in the midst of a postgame celebration: “0-0”
“Every game, every time, coach Scheyer has said that, 0-0,” said freshman Tyrese Proctor.
It represents Duke’s record heading into the NCAA Tournament. The entire season’s accomplishments will result in a seeding for the upcoming tourney. Anything Duke wants beyond that will need to be earned.
“We’ll go where they send us with a smile on our face ready to compete and go win,” said Scheyer.