"I told them, 'I'm not going to tell you we have to win it,'" Krzyzewski said. "'I'm going to tell you we're going to win it.'"
Then, Gerald Henderson went out and proved him right.
Henderson scored a career-high 35 points and the ninth-ranked Blue Devils held on to beat No. 8 Wake Forest 101-91 on Sunday night.
Jon Scheyer added a career-high 30 points in his second straight start at point guard for the Blue Devils (22-5, 8-4 Atlantic Coast Conference). They twice led by 22 points in the first half and let the Demon Deacons creep within two points before finally putting them away with a late 16-6 run keyed by Henderson.
He led Duke to a critical victory that moved it into a three-way tie for second in the league standings behind North Carolina. Now, the Blue Devils finish the season with three of its final four games away from cozy Cameron Indoor Stadium.
That's why Coach K made it a point to impress the importance of this game on his players.
"You could tell (Krzyzewski's) intensity level had risen a little bit," Henderson said. "We want to win this league, and we're still fighting for first place. His intensity and his passion is something that leads us, and we just follow his lead."
Jeff Teague scored 28 points and James Johnson added 26 for the Demon Deacons (20-5, 7-5). They shot 61 percent but allowed Duke to hit 54 percent of its attempts — the worst performance of the season by the ACC's stingiest defense.
"If somebody would have said we were going to score 91 points and we'd lose, I think I would have called him a liar," Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio said.
Yet his team managed to twice close within two points down the stretch, the last coming when freshman Al-Farouq Aminu's alley-oop dunk from Johnson made it 80-78 with 7½ minutes remaining.
"You lose the lead in a game like this, and you might lose the game," Krzyzewski said.
Scheyer and Henderson wouldn't let that happen.
Scheyer knocked down three free throws roughly 30 seconds later to start the decisive run in which Duke hit 6-of-7 attempts from the foul line. Henderson and Scheyer then capped the run by hitting 3-pointers about a minute apart, with Scheyer pushing it to 96-84 with 2:12 left.
Wake Forest didn't get closer than seven points the rest of the way.
"We got so close, man, but their good players made big plays for them at the end," Teague said. "That's what you expect from big-time players like him. We really needed some stops down the stretch, but we couldn't get any."
Kyle Singler and Williams had 11 points apiece for Duke, which led by 20 before Teague hit his first field goal and went on to deny the Demon Deacons their first series sweep in 13 years while keeping them from their first win at Cameron since 1997.
Ishmael Smith scored 12 points and L.D. Williams added 10 for Wake Forest, which has lost four straight road games. Its last victory away from Joel Coliseum, a 78-68 win at Clemson on Jan. 17, propelled the Demon Deacons to the second No. 1 ranking in school history.
They were dethroned shortly after that, and a week later they turned the tables on the Blue Devils, knocking them from the top spot with a 70-68 victory in which Henderson's final-seconds turnover gave Johnson an opportunity to hit the game-winning shot with 0.8 seconds remaining.
He didn't make any of those mistakes this time.
Henderson easily eclipsed his previous career high of 25 points set last month at Florida State while becoming the first Blue Devils player to score 30 since J.J. Redick in 2006, though Scheyer equaled the feat a few moments later, giving Duke a pair of 30-point scorers for the first time since 1980.
Henderson was 11-of-15 shooting — while hitting 10 of his 11 attempts inside the 3-point arc, slicing his way through the Demon Deacons' defense for dunks and layups whenever Duke needed them, and knocking down a critical 3 with the shot clock winding down during the decisive run.
"There's nobody in the country who can attack the rim like Gerald can," Scheyer said.
Duke appeared to have taken control early by outscoring Wake Forest 28-4 during a 9-minute stretch midway through the first half in which the Blue Devils made their guests look like a young, mistake-prone team that had never before played at Cameron. Wake Forest had 16 of its 20 turnovers in the first half.
Then again, Teague was among three Demon Deacons starters who were, in fact, playing here for the first time. Duke twice led by 22 after reeling off 14 straight points during that run.
"Early, it wasn't our offense," Gaudio said. "It was our turnovers."
But after falling behind 41-19, Wake Forest made it a game again by scoring on eight consecutive possessions to start a run in which it outscored the Blue Devils 25-10 over a 7-minute stretch that bridged halftime. Teague — who went without a field goal for the opening 14 minutes — started that run with a jumper and had 16 points during that burst.
"We just could not stop them," Krzyzewski said. "But they couldn't stop us, either."