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Kennard comes through late for No. 14 Duke against Clemson

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NEW YORK (AP) Luke Kennard had an ugly first half, and Duke leaned on freshmen Jayson Tatum and Frank Jackson to build a double-digit lead against Clemson.

Then the Tigers rallied, and Kennard put down the uprising.

Kennard made two clutch jumpers in the final 2:04 and No. 14 Duke beat Clemson 79-72 on Wednesday to advance to the Atlantic Coast Conference quarterfinals.

The fifth-seeded Blue Devils (24-8) will play fourth-seeded and No. 8 Louisville on Thursday at Barclays Center.

Kennard, the ACC’s leading scorer, went 1 for 9 from the field in the first half and 8 for 11 in the second to finish with 20 points.

“I think that’s a heck of a performance when a player it isn’t going and then it goes that shows you’re a different player. You’re a special player when you’re able to do that,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Tatum and Jackson each scored 20 and picked up the slack while Kennard was cold.

Jaron Blossomgame led Clemson (17-15) with 19 points and eight rebounds.

Duke built a 13-point lead midway through the second half but could not put away Clemson. Marcquise Reed converted a 3-point play with 2:51 left to cut Duke’s lead to 69-68 and get the small contingent of Tigers fans in Barclays, plus any Duke haters in the crowd, pumped up.

Kennard answered with a jumper to push the lead back to three. He dropped in a fallaway from the baseline with 1:14 left to up the lead to 75-70.

“The biggest thing I can take away from this is how much confidence my coaches, my teammates, they have in me,” Kennard said. “They continue to tell me to be aggressive.”

BIG PICTURE

Clemson: The Tigers came into the game having lost 10 games by six points or fewer, including a two-point loss to Duke during the regular season. File another one under missed opportunities for Clemson. The Tigers were 24 for 26 from the foul line, but didn’t make enough shots to answer Duke’s proficient offense.

Duke: With Grayson Allen nursing a sore ankle and coming off the bench at the end of the season, Jackson has played his best ball since the nonconference schedule. He had averaged 17.6 points per game in the last three regular-season games.

Jackson gives Duke a true point guard instead of Krzyzewski having to force Allen in at the point. The Blue Devils also got some sharp low-post passing from Tatum, who had four assists against Clemson.

Coach K said his team is still searching for an identity.

“Crazy as it may sound, I think we’re still evolving because of all the injuries and interruptions that we’ve had. But we’re getting better,” Krzyzewski said. “I don’t know who we are completely, but I have good kids. I have really good kids, and they play hard, and they share the ball. Maybe we’ll develop a little bit more of an identity here. We’ve got another chance, let’s put it that way.”

ALLEN T’D UP

Allen was called for a technical foul for a second straight game when he slammed the ball on the floor after getting called for a loose ball foul.

He was whistled for running into Blossomgame. Allen grabbed the bouncing ball as he moved toward the corner of the court on the opposite side of the benches. He then slammed the ball down in obvious anger and was hit with a technical, giving him three personal fouls. His next stop was the bench.

Allen, who was suspended for a game earlier this season for tripping an opponent for the third time in his career, said he probably deserved the technical and that he didn’t think he was being targeted by officials.

Allen received a technical in the season finale against North Carolina on Saturday for throwing an elbow. Allen finished scoreless and 0 for 4 from the field against Clemson, playing a season-low 12 minutes. He said his ankle is improving.

“I just need to play better,” he said.

UP NEXT

Clemson: The Tigers hope to get an NIT bid.

“We won six (ACC) games. We probably needed to win eight or 10,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said about getting into the NCAAs. “That’s obviously why today’s game was so important for our team. If we could have got today’s game, then I think we have a better chance, and then maybe one more.”

Duke: The Blue Devils lost their only meeting with Louisville this season, falling 78-69 on the road.

Follow Ralph D. Russo at http://www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

More college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org

VIDEO: LaVar Ball gets female ref replaced after threatening to pull team from court

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A female referee was removed from a Big Ballers game after LaVar Ball threatened to pull his team from the court for the second time in a week.

The referee called Ball for a technical foul, which sparked the confrontation, but both Ball and an adidas rep told ESPN’s Jeff Borzello that the reason the ref was pulled was because she and Ball had a previous issue:

Before the game was over, Ball would receive a second technical foul and the game was eventually called with two minutes left and Big Ballers losing by 10.

Western Kentucky’s five-star recruit Mitchell Robinson has left campus

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The soap opera that has been Mitchell Robinson’s tenure at Western Kentucky took another on Friday, as the five-star center and top ten prospect in the Class of 2017 has reportedly left campus.

Robinson was a massive coup for Rick Stansbury when he committed to and signed for the Hilltoppers, but it has been non-stop drama since then. Less than two weeks after his commitment, Robinson tweeted that he would be decommitting from WKU before immediately deleting the tweet and claiming that his account was hacked. Robinson did not attend the first session of summer school on campus, and he was in class in the second summer school session and reportedly practicing with the team this month for a trip to Costa Rica, but he cleaned out his dorm room and left the campus last night.

Part of the reason that Robinson opted to go to Western Kentucky was that his godfather, former UNC star Shammond Williams, was an assistant coach on the staff. Williams left the program on July 3rd, and ever since then there have been questions surrounding where Robinson will play this season. There have been rumors that he will be heading overseas for a year before entering the 2018 NBA Draft, and there is also the potential that Robinson could end up transferring to a different college.

The question, however, is whether or not Robinson will be able to transfer and play immediately without sitting out a year since he enrolled in summer school.

Robinson is a 7-foot center and a terrific defensive prospect that is projected as a first round pick next year. If he does get a waiver to transfer, he immediately becomes the best available talent on the market, along with Marvin Bagley III, who is considering reclassifying.

Virginia, Seton Hall, Rhode Island, Vandy in NIT Tip-Off

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NEW YORK (AP) — Virginia and Vanderbilt will meet in one semifinal of the NIT Preseason Tip-Off on Thanksgiving Day at Barclays Center.

Rhode Island and Seton Hall face off in the other semifinal with the winners meeting on Friday, Nov. 24.

This is the third straight year the Tip-Off has been held at Barclays Center. Eventual NCAA champion Villanova won the event in 2015. All games will be televised on ESPNU.

Non-bracketed teams in the NIT Season Tip-Off who will play games at campus sites are: Austin Peay, Fairleigh Dickinson, Monmouth, Oakland City and UNC Asheville.

Miles Bridges explain why he returned to Michigan State

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Miles Bridges changed the landscape of the 2017-18 college basketball season on April 13.

The Michigan State forward spurned the NBA for another year in East Lansing. The decision not only meant that Bridges was a frontrunner for national player of the year, but solidified the Spartans as a national title contender.

But Bridges’ choice to return was still puzzling to many. The 6-foot-7 forward was projected as a lottery pick. Bridges explained his decision to Mike Decourcy of Sporting News in a story published on Thursday.

“He says, ‘You know what, Coach? I want to get better. I don’t want to be in the D-League. I’ve got buddies that are, and I just want to make sure when I go, I’m ready,’ ” Izzo recalled to Sporting News. “I looked at him and I said, ‘Done deal.’ For me, that was a done deal. It was a reasonable, sensible argument.”

Agents, friends, reporters, scouts, acquaintances, fans, strangers and family members — oh and, as we said, coaches — all had one opinion about how Bridges should spend the next year of his life. Miles had another, opposing, viewpoint.

Bridges told Decourcy that support came from his teammates, many of whom were returning to the team as well. Assuming the backcourt of Cassius Winston and Josh Langford make a leap forward, as well as incoming freshman Jaren Jackson providing an immediate impact, the Spartans’ title hopes could become a reality.

Bridges averaged 16.9 points, 8.3 boards, 2.1 assists and 1.5 blocks as a freshman at Michigan State. He’s rated as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft by DraftExpress.

Four conferences sign on to basketball officiating alliance

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Four more Division I conferences will join a men’s basketball officiating alliance formed last year by the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East, the Atlantic 10 and Colonial Athletic Association.

The Big South, the Ivy League, the Northeast and the Patriot League are joining ahead of the 2017-18 season, according to announcements from the leagues Thursday. The alliance launched last summer for conferences to work together on officiating matters and enhance training, development, recruitment, retention and feedback for officials.

John Cahill, the Big East’s supervisor of officials, and Bryan Kersey, the ACC’s coordinator of men’s basketball officiating, will continue to lead the alliance operations.

ACC commissioner John Swofford says the new additions to the alliance “provide an even greater opportunity to build chemistry and quality” across the officiating ranks.