EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - You knew Mike Krzyzewski would find a way to begin his press conference Saturday with a little praise for his opponent. Duke's coach and Temple coach Fran Dunphy go back four decades. Krzyzewski said they are "like brothers" since they played on the same traveling Army team.
"It's the most assists we've given up to a team," Krzyzewski said at the Izod Center, adding, "They get a lot of steals."
He wasn't being patronizing. Temple beat Duke last season at the Wells Fargo Center. There's no doubt Krzyzewski considered this a good win. But it was a dominating win, 90-67. Coach K may have had to search the box score for a moment before this press conference.
This day was more about Duke than about Temple. The only debate about the Blue Devils' No. 2 national ranking is whether it's high enough. In the Associated Press poll, Duke gets all the first-place votes not awarded to Indiana.
Krzyzewski admitted being impressed by his own team. What's not to like when you hit 60 percent of your three-pointers and have six turnovers, your freshman point guard has none, and you hold Temple's two leading scorers to a combined 12 points, 20 under their two-man average.
You knew going in that Duke, playing its first game in a week, would be intensely focused on Temple scorers Khalif Wyatt and Scootie Randall. Duke has the capability of making it a long night for two guys, and you suspected Temple wouldn't have enough alternatives against a top-10 opponent.
It probably wasn't a coincidence that talented Owls freshman guard Quenton DeCosey was Temple's only double-digit scorer with 13 points, making all three of his three-pointers. He wouldn't have shown up as much on film.
Afterward, DeCosey, a Central Jersey product, mentioned that his memories of this building were playing here once in high school and once in middle school.
Krzyzewski was asked basically the same question except the questioner knew the history, how he has to feel pretty good turning into the parking lot at the Izod Center, which had other names for other big games.
"I don't talk to the team about it, because they don't know, and they don't care," Krzyzewski said of playing at the Meadowlands. "But last night, when you walk in, I see Laettner hitting the side out-of-bounds special, and see Henderson dunking over Mourning . . . "
North Jersey is Duke country. Temple was officially the visiting team and the crowd reflected that.
"For us to be 20-1, and there are no gimmes in those 21 games," Krzyzewski said of Duke's all-time record in the building. "Those were all big-time games here."
Hate 'em all you want, the Dookies are for real again, especially when they are this hot from the outside. Just when Temple thought it might have a chance in the second half, Seth Curry hit a three and a couple of free throws and a jumper off the dribble and another three. Time to hit the turnpike.
Yes, Duke shot a lot of free throws and Temple didn't shoot any until less than nine minutes were left in the game. But that was mostly a function of how this game was played. Duke had advantages inside and out. Last season, Temple was able to dictate the action with strong guard play. As there was no encore of that, Duke's inside advantages were felt more at the foul line than scoring inside. The Blue Devils shot only 41 percent from inside the three-point arc.
Somebody nicely pointed out to Krzyzewski that his early schedule had been brutal so far, that 9-0 was a great feat, and asked if he saw anything different in this team from year's past.
"I've had some great teams - we've done all right," Krzyzewski said drily. "This team has a characteristic about it that the real outstanding teams I've had have. That is, they fight. They fight together. They don't play. They compete and they fight. That's good. They're a really good team to coach because they bring that. A little bit today at times I thought they forgot about it, but then they got it right back."
Does Temple have that? That's to be judged from Owls games against Xavier and St. Louis and Butler and St. Joseph's and La Salle and VCU . . . The A-10 is an only-the-strongest-survive kind of league this season.
"We're talking about one of the best coaches who never gets included in all that stuff," Krzyzewski said of Dunphy. "His team is going to win a lot of ball games."
Duke's coach meant every word - and he was in a much better mood saying it than when he last saw Dunphy at the Wells Fargo Center.