"He'll be like, 'Get out of the way, I've got it,'" Smith said. "You don't really hear that too often, when a freshman will tell two seniors on the wings to get out of the way. We have no problem letting him do it."
Easy to see why.
Irving scored a season-high 31 points and led No. 1 Duke past No. 6 Michigan State 84-79 on Wednesday night in the marquee matchup of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Smith added 17 points and Kyle Singler scored 15 for the Blue Devils (7-0), who shot 47 percent and turned 20 Michigan State turnovers into 28 points. Duke used a 12-2 spurt midway through the second half to take a double-figure lead, then held off the Spartans down the stretch by hitting 9 of 12 free throws in the final 1:15 to seal its second victory over a top-10 team in eight days.
"I think every win we have is a statement," Irving said. "We want to show the world, every time we step on the court, we're the best."
Korie Lucious scored 20 points and Draymond Green added 10 of his 16 in the final minute for Michigan State (5-2). The Spartans shot 49 percent, were held to one field goal during a critical 7-minute stretch that coincided with Duke's run but otherwise hung tight with the reigning national champions.
"We showed at times, we had some resilience tonight, we showed some fight in us," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. "We competed better, and [when] we got down, we came back against ... [what] I think is the best team in college basketball."
The Spartans put a few of the Blue Devils' impressive winning streaks to the test. But ultimately, Duke found a way to win its 17th straight game dating to last season's national title run, claim its 23rd straight victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium and run its NCAA-best streak of nonconference wins at home to 81.
Mike Krzyzewski also claimed the 875th victory of his Hall of Fame career to move one win behind Adolph Rupp, who's in third place on the all-time list.
Irving, whose previous scoring high was 17 points, had 18 in the first half. He became the fourth Duke freshman to score 30 points and the first since J.J. Redick in 2003. He was sharp from the outside and was effective getting to the rim while drawing contact, finishing 13 of 16 from the free throw line.
Though he did much of the heavy lifting against the Spartans, he insists the Blue Devils are not yet his team.
"It's not one single person," Irving said. "Duke basketball, it's a collective effort. It's a brotherhood here. It's not my team."
For much of the way, little came easy for the Blue Devils. Michigan State closed to 69-64 on Durrell Summers' dunk with 3½ minutes left before Singler stuck back Irving's miss just before the shot clock expired.
"We knew they weren't going to go away," Singler said. "It shows how good we are, I guess, right now, confidence-wise, and being able to execute towards the end of the game."
Mason Plumlee finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds for Duke, which won the first meeting between the teams since the 2005 regional semifinals and hasn't lost in the regular season to the Spartans since 1958.
It was a tight one throughout, and the Blue Devils' only chance to get any separation came during Michigan State's drought midway through the half. Summers pulled the Spartans to 49-47 with a 3 with 14½ minutes left, but the next few minutes belonged to Duke.
Irving started the run with a free throw, and Singler hit two 3s during the burst -- capping it by pump-faking Green in the corner, taking one step left and swishing it to make it 61-49 with 9:21 left.
Meanwhile, the Spartans -- who entered averaging 17 turnovers -- made the kinds of mistakes that usually prove problematic at Cameron. They turned it over six times during a stretch of eight possessions during Duke's run.
"We gave it our all, but like I said, it's turnovers," Lucious said. "If we keep our turnovers down, I think we can be one of the best teams in the country. We already are, but our turnovers are stopping us from doing that right now."
Kalin Lucas added 14 points and Summers finished with 11 for Michigan State, which always seems to draw a tough assignment in this made-for-TV event.
This was the second straight year they had to face the reigning national champion on its home court. North Carolina claimed an 89-82 victory last year against the Spartans, who trailed by 19 in that one. And a year earlier, Michigan State suffered a 35-point loss to the Tar Heels at Ford Field.
This time, Duke claimed this matchup of A-list coaches who have made a habit of advancing to the season's final weekend.
Izzo has led Michigan State to a nation's-best six Final Fours in 12 seasons and the 2000 national championship, while Krzyzewski has reached the sport's biggest stage 11 times in more than three decades at Duke and claimed his fourth national championship in April.
The Spartans were the one team in Indianapolis that the Blue Devils didn't face. Duke beat West Virginia in the Final Four before holding on in the title game to beat upstart Butler, which had knocked off Michigan State in the semifinals. Next up for the Blue Devils: A championship-game rematch with Butler this weekend in East Rutherford, N.J.
- Karl Hess
- Ed Corbett
- John Cahill