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Rasheed Sulaimon climbs out of the doghouse in No. 8 Duke’s 80-63 win

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NEW YORK — There was nothing memorable about the shot.

It was one of six threes that No. 8 Duke made and one of 18 that they hoisted up in the first half of their 80-63 win over UCLA on Thursday night in Madison Square Garden. It was the kind of play that gets taught to basketball players the minute they’re able to reach the rim from the three-point line, the kind of drive-and-kick action that we’ve seen out of a Mike Krzyzewski-coached team thousands of times over the years.

As Quinn Cook penetrated to the middle of UCLA’s zone, drawing the attention Zach LaVine and Bryce Alford, he got Rasheed Sulaimon all kinds of space on the left wing. As Cook let the pass go, he knew what this shot meant for Sulaimon, what it could potentially mean for the Blue Devils.

Before the ball even reach Sulaimon’s hands, Cook knew it was buckets.

“You’re back,” he said. “You’re back.”

“Before I even let it go,” a beaming Sulaimon said in the locker room after the game. “That kinda helped me a little bit. When I made it, I just looked at him. It was a big weight lifted off my shoulders.”

“I was kind of nervous when I took it.”

There’s no surprise there.


The doghouse.

A slump.

A bad spell.

For weeks, something had been going on with No. 8 Duke’s sophomore shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon. You can call it whatever you want, but the bottom line is that it’s been more than a month since Rasheed Sulaimon was a relevant factor in Duke’s lineup. He scored 33 points in the Blue Devils’ first two games of the year, but in the eight games between then entering Thursday night’s date with UCLA, Sulaimon had averaged 3.0 points. He made just two of his last 16 shots from the floor. He was shooting 20% since the Champions Classic. Against Michigan, he never set foot on the court. Against Gardner-Webb, he played five scoreless minutes.

Like I said, a non-factor. And if it wasn’t for Rodney Hood being a step late to try and take a change on Jordan Adams with 9:32 left in the half, picking up his second foul, there’s no guarantee that would have changed against UCLA. Duke had already gone through their off-guard rotation. Andre Dawkins came in for Tyler Thornton at the 15:00 mark. Matt Jones got on the floor a couple of minutes later, and both were on the bench when Thornton checked back into the game with 9:57 on the clock.

Hood picked up his second foul 25 seconds later, and 47 seconds after that, Cook found Sulaimon for that three.

The box score won’t blow you away. Sulaimon finished with eight points, five boards and four assists. He played 18 minutes and shot 3-for-7 from the floor. He turned the ball over twice. In any other circumstance, this would have been a disappointing performance for a kid that was considered a potential lottery pick entering the season.

It wasn’t even a great performance from Sulaimon given the circumstances, but there was a noticeable change in Sulaimon’s play. He was more aggressive. He looked more confident. He missed four of his next five shots after knocking down that first jumper, but he didn’t stop attacking. He didn’t stop shooting when he was open. Eventually, it paid off. Sulaimon hit a three with just over two minutes left to give the Blue Devils a 74-63 lead. He fought off two Bruins to track down a loose ball at the other end of the floor on the ensuing possession, following that up with a beautiful drive-and-dish, getting a layup for Amile Jefferson that put the win on ice.

“It’s the best he’s played this year,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game, and that’s terrific news for the Blue Devils. They don’t need Sulaimon to contend for an ACC title. Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood and Quinn Cook is enough to get them into the conversation. With Tyler Thornton, Andre Dawkins and Matt Jones all on the roster, Coach K has enough pieces at that off-guard spot to make things work. If he needs shooting, he’s got Dawkins. If he needs a defender, he’s got Thornton. If he needs a guy that can do a little bit of both, he’s got Jones.

The difference with Sulaimon is that he can shoot and he can defend, but he’s by far the most talented off-guard that Duke has. He’s the best penetrator on the roster, according to Cook. He brings a different dynamic to the Blue Devil attack. He just needed to be willing to buy into the role that he was given. No one is building an offense around Sulaimon when Parker and Hood are on the roster as well.

Sulaimon needed to see rock bottom, and taking a DNP-CD on national television in Duke’s biggest win of the season to date — the Michigan game — is a good way to do that.

“He has been practicing well the last two weeks and it paid off,” Coach K said. “I was so happy he hit that big shot to put us up 74-63.”

He wasn’t alone.

At the next timeout, following Sulaimon’s game-clinching sequence, he was mobbed by his teammates at half court. In the locker room after the game, he got a bear hug from assistant coach Jeff Capel. After exiting that embrace, Sulaimon walked straight into the waiting arms of Jon Scheyer, who hugged him and slapped him on the back as he yelled “Yessir!”

“I just want to thank those guys for helping me through the tough times,” Sulaimon said.

So much for the doghouse.

“He’s out,” Rodney Hood said. “He’s officially out.”

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Vanderbilt advances; N.C. State tops LSU

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No. 19 Vanderbilt 86, Wake Forest 64: In the first semifinal at the Maui Invitational, the Commodores had an impressive start-to-finish effort in completely outplaying Wake Forest. Damian Jones had 17 points and 10 rebounds while Wade Baldwin IV also added 17. Vanderbilt shot 49 percent from the floor while holding Wake Forest to 32 percent shooting.

N.C. State 83, No. 22 LSU 72, OT: LSU squandered a valuable opportunity for some good non-conference wins by losing again on Tuesday night and going 0-2 at the Barclays Center this week. The Wolfpack used 20 points from junior point guard Cat Barber to guide them to victory.

Ben Simmons had another solid stat-line, but the Tigers still lost. CBT’s Rob Dauster has more on this one.

Louisiana Tech 82, Ohio State 74: Ohio State had won 61 consecutive non-conference home games against unranked teams before losing back-to-back games against UT-Arlington and Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs went 10-for-25 from 3-point range and Ohio State turned the ball over 14 times. Alex Hamilton led Louisiana Tech with 24 points, six rebounds and six assists.

Marquette 78, Arizona State 73, OT: The Golden Eagles picked up another huge win on a neutral court as Henry Ellenson and Luke Fischer finished with 18 points. Marquette’s defense held Arizona State to 38 percent shooting.


Derrick Jones Jr., UNLV: The high-flying freshman went for 26 points in a win over Chaminade and also threw down some ridiculous dunks.

Javion Ogunyemi, Siena: Scoring a career-high 24 points was strong enough, but Ogunyemi also made the game-winning bucket with 2.2 seconds left to give the Saints an 83-81 overtime win over Bucknell.


  • No. 1 Kentucky earned a double-digit win over Boston as Skal Labissiere led with 16 points.
  • Maryland once again trailed in the final five minutes but rallied to beat Illinois State. Rasheed Sulaimon led the No. 3 Terps with 18 points.
  • No. 7 Oklahoma rolled past Incarnate Word as Buddy Hield had 22 points.
  • In the consolation bracket at Maui, No. 13 Indiana rebounded with a win over St. John’s as Yogi Ferrell went for 22 points.
  • No. 24 Cincinnati remained unbeaten with a 64-49 win over Southeastern Louisiana as Jacob Evans and Troy Caupain each had 15 points.


  • Duquesne held off Milwaukee in overtime as Derrick Colter had 27 points and Micah Mason had 26 points and nine assists.
  • George Washington rolled past Gardner-Webb as Tyler Cavanaugh had 20 points.
  • UMass Lowell cruised by Wheelhouse College as Dontavius Smith broke a backboard during the game and finished with 14 points.
  • Rhode Island knocked off TCU as Four McGlynn had 18 points.
  • Cameron Jones knocked down five 3-pointers and finished with 23 points as Radford upset Penn State on the road.
  • South Florida escaped with a home win over Albany as Chris Perry had the late go-ahead dunk and Angel Nunez led the Bulls with 16 points.
  • Northwestern topped Missouri in the consolation game of the CBE Classic as Tre Demps had 13 points.
  • Saint Louis beat North Florida as Ash Yacoubou had 20 points to lead the Billikens.
  • Nebraska cruised past Arkansas-Pine Bluff as Andrew White finished with 16 points.
  • Tennessee rolled past Army as Armani Moore had 29 points and Kevin Punter added 26 points.
  • Louisville picked up an easy win over St. Francis  (Brooklyn) as Damion Lee  had 21 points.
  • Virginia Tech earned a big win over North Carolina A&T as Zach LeDay had 30 points.


Ben Simmons: Another memorable stat-line, another loss

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons stays setting records.

One night after becoming the first high-major player to finish with at least 20 points, 20 boards and five assists in a game since Blake Griffin in 2008, Simmons became the first player to notch 10 boards, 10 assists, three steals and three blocks in a game since Luke Walton did it for Arizona back in 2002.

[MORE: Why scouts think Simmons is overrated]

To get an idea of how rare that is, Luke Walton is currently the head coach of the Golden State Warriors.

Here’s the issue: Simmons — who finished with 14 boards, 10 assists, three steals, three blocks and no turnovers — was just 1-for-6 from the floor with four points as the Tigers lost their second straight game at the Legends Classic, this time falling to N.C. State in overtime, 83-72.

[MORE: Simmons’ Enigma: Transcendent star? Overrated? Or irrelevant?]

Unfortunately, it looks like the predictions are coming to fruition, that this LSU team, loaded with talent, with spend the season on the periphery of the national consciousness.

There’s a reason to be hopeful.

Keith Hornsby, who averaged 13.4 points last season, is out indefinitely after undergoing surgery for an undisclosed injury. Craig Victor will be eligible for the second semester. Reserves are on the way, and having an athletic five-man and a shooter like Hornsby will certainly help a team that likes to spread the floor and play in transition.

After watching LSU play the last two days, they need all the help they can get. Marquette and N.C. State are name-brand programs, but there’s no guarantee that either of them are going to be NCAA tournament teams. In other words, those two losses aren’t going in the book as “good losses”.

Yesterday, I was worried about LSU not being able to make a run in the NCAA tournament. After today, I’m just hoping that they’ll be able to get into the tournament at all.