Duke lands come-from-behind win over North Carolina

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BROOKLYN — Jayson Tatum, Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard combined for 62 points and Frank Jackson chipped in with 15 points of his own on Friday night as Duke erased a double-digit second half deficit for the second straight game, knocking off top-seeded North Carolina in the semifinals of the ACC tournament, 93-83.

The Blue Devils trailed 61-48 with just over 13 minutes left on Friday, using a 29-8 run that coincided with Joel Berry II’s fourth foul to take a 77-70 lead that North Carolina never recovered from. On Thursday night, in Duke’s win over Louisville, the Blue Devils erased a 12-point deficit — that score was 61-49, coincidentally — to knock off the Cardinals.

Here are four things to take away from Duke’s win:

1. Get ready for the Duke love affair to begin anew: Because it’s going to happen.

The Blue Devils were the consensus favorite to win the national title before the season began. Throughout November and December, every story about Duke read, in part, “just wait until they get their guys healthy.”

Well, guess what: their guys are healthy. Allen’s ankle looks as good as it has looked all year long, Tatum looks like the best isolation scorer in the country and Luke Kennard is still capable of putting up 20 points on a night where he didn’t play all that well. The Blue Devils have their flaws — they are never going to be a great defensive team, their depth is an issue, North Carolina’s bigs absolutely beat the crap out of the Blue Devils for the first 30 minutes on Friday — but this team is more talented than anyone else in college basketball.

And they are now coming off of wins over a pair of top ten teams on back-to-back nights where they trailed by double-digits in the second half of both games.

The love affair is about to begin again.

2. You got a glimpse of the real Harry Giles III: Giles’ story doesn’t need to be retold at this point. An elite prospect during the early years of high school, Giles suffered a torn ACL in both knees and, prior to the start of practice, underwent a procedure on the first knee he injured. He spent 14 months not playing basketball.

That’s not easy for anyone to overcome, let alone a freshman that has never played basketball at this level before, and it showed during the season. Giles struggled with everything: the physicality, the speed of the game, defensive rotations, his endurance, his explosiveness. He just wasn’t the same guy.

On Friday night, however, we saw a little bit of what made him so special as a high schooler. Late in the second half, with Amile Jefferson on the bench with four fouls and Duke in a physical battle with the Tar Heels, Giles had a pivotal stretch where he blocked a shot at one end, beat Tony Bradley down the floor for a dunk at the other end, stole an entry pass on the ensuing UNC possession and, after Duke scored at the other end of the floor, snagged a rebound in between two of North Carolina’s big, physical dominating front court pieces.

That’s the guy that we’ve been waiting all year to see, and this was another step towards Giles being that guy.

3. North Carolina is damn good when they have everyone on the court: Duke won on Friday, but North Carolina showed just how dominant they are capable of being when all their guys are on the floor.

Berry went to the bench with 15 minutes left. Duke’s run came entirely with him out of the lineup, and coincided with UNC’s inability to get anything done offensively. We all know how important Berry is to the Tar Heels — if you didn’t, I think today proved it to you — and that loss is a by-product of one of those things that happens in hoops.

Berry isn’t in foul trouble often, however.

And when he’s on the floor, Theo Pinson is healthy and Isaiah is both healthy and not in foul trouble, the Tar Heels are as good or better than just about anyone.

Put another way, North Carolina-Duke Round 4 in the Final Four is not something that should shock anyone.

4. Where are these teams going to get seeded?: I think North Carolina is probably going to be safe as a No. 1 seed, but they’ve now lost two games in the last week. With Gonzaga going 32-1 and, in all likelihood, one of the three elite teams in the Pac-12 winning that conference tournament, might their be two West Coast teams that earn a No. 1 seed?

I don’t think so, but it’s possible.

Perhaps more interesting, however, will be where Duke is seeded. They just added two top ten wins to a résumé that looked good enough to be in contention for a No. 3 seed. With a win on Saturday night, can they climb into the No. 2 seed line?

Tennessee center Tamari Key out for season with blood clots

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee senior center Tamari Key will miss the rest of this season because of blood clots in her lungs, coach Kellie Harper said.

Doctors found the issue during testing. Key is expected to make a full recovery after treatment from University of Tennessee doctors, Harper said, adding that her sole concern is Key getting the medical care she needs to heal and return to full strength.

Key missed the first game of her career in a win Tuesday night over Chattanooga after playing her first 99.

“This is much bigger than basketball. We are so grateful that this medical condition was caught,” Harper said in a statement. “Our entire program will be right beside Tamari during this process and welcomes prayers and positive thoughts from Lady Vol Nation and beyond.”

The Lady Vols opened the season ranked fifth but currently are 5-5.

The 6-foot-6 Key from Cary, North Carolina, currently is Tennessee’s third-leading scorer averaging 8.4 points a game and averaged 4.2 rebounds per game. She started all 34 games as the Lady Vols reached their first Sweet 16 since 2016 last season and set the school record with 119 blocked shots.

Key had 18 blocks this season and 295 for her career, five away from becoming the eighth woman to reach that mark in Southeastern Conference history.

No. 7 Tennessee beats Eastern Kentucky, win streak hits 7

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tyreke Key scored 10 of the first 12 points of the second half and finished with 17, and No. 7 Tennessee overcame a sluggish first half and beat Eastern Kentucky 84-49 on Wednesday night.

“Tyreke is handling the ball now,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “That’s all new to him. He keeps getting better.”

The Volunteers (8-1) struggled in the first half but still built an 11-point lead over Eastern Kentucky (4-5) on the way to their seventh straight victory.

Key led Tennessee in scoring before leaving with a cramp in his right leg with 6:15 left in the game. Julian Phillips had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Zakai Zeigler and Uros Plavsic added 13 points apiece. Olivier Nkamhoua scored 10.

“I’m still settling in,” said Key, a transfer from Indiana State who didn’t play last year while recovering from an injury. “This is a new role. I’m taking steps every day and keep learning.”

Eastern Kentucky, which came into the game averaging 83.5 points, was held well below that total due to 17% (6 for 35) shooting from long range and 22% (15 for 68) overall. Leland Walker led the Colonels with 13 points.

It was the seventh time this season Tennessee has held its opponent to 50 or fewer points.

“(Tennessee) is the best defensive team in the country,” Eastern Kentucky coach A.W. Hamilton said. “I think they’re the best team in the country.”

At one point in the first half, Tennessee was shooting 20% and still leading by 10 points. The teams combined to shoot 4 of 32 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes. The Vols, who shot 24% (8 of 34), led 32-21 at the break.

“If we can’t make shots, can you find a way to win the game?” Barnes said. “When the shot’s not going in, find a way to play. The first thing we talk about is our defense.”

Tennessee shot 41 free throws. Phillips, a true freshman, was 7 of 10.

“(Phillips) has learned the pace of the game,” Barnes said. “I’m not sure there’s been a more effective freshman in the country (this season).”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Since its early season slip against Colorado, Tennessee has had a steady ascent in the rankings. The Vols’ next two games – neutral site (Brooklyn) against No, 13 Maryland (Dec. 11) and at No. 10 Arizona (Dec. 17) – will go a long way toward justifying the No. 7 ranking.

BIG PICTURE

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels’ run-and-gun style of offense had them averaging 83.5 points through their first eight games. They ran into a defensive buzz saw in Tennessee, which was yielding just over 51 points.

Tennessee: Santiago Vescovi sat out his second straight game with a shoulder problem. He is expected to be ready to play Sunday against Maryland. . The Vols have won seven in a row since their loss to Colorado.

UP NEXT

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels host Boyce College on Saturday.

Tennessee: Take on No. 13 Maryland on Sunday at the Hall of Fame Invitational in New York.

Hoggard scores career-high 23, Michigan State snaps 2-game skid

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A.J. Hoggard scored a career-high 23 points, Joey Hauser had 12 points and 15 rebounds and Michigan State beat Penn State 67-58 on Wednesday night to snap a two-game losing streak.

Michigan State (6-4, 1-1 Big Ten) avoided going .500 or worse after 10 games for the first time in 18 seasons.

Hoggard blocked an open layup with less than a minute to play and Hauser grabbed the rebound before being fouled and making two free throws at the other end for a 66-58 lead.

Hoggard, Hauser and Tyson Walker combined for 31 of Michigan State’s 32 second-half points.

The Michigan State defense allowed only one made field goal in the final five minutes. Penn State was just 1 of 9 from 3-point range in the second half after 7 of 18 before halftime.

Walker scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half for Michigan State. Hoggard, who entered third in the conference in assists at 6.3, had six rebounds, two assists and one key block.

Hoggard gave Michigan State 35-33 lead – its first since 4-2 – after back-to-back three-point plays with 59.3 seconds left in the first half. It was tied at 35-all at the break.

Seth Lundy scored 16 points and Jalen Pickett had 13 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists for Penn State (6-3, 0-1)

Michigan State hosts Brown on Saturday. Penn State, which hadn’t played since a double-overtime loss to Clemson on Nov. 29, plays at No. 17 Illinois on Saturday.

No. 7 Virginia Tech posts 9th straight win, beats Boston College 73-58

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BOSTON — Reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Elizabeth Kitley had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Cayla King scored 16 on Wednesday night to lead No. 7 Virginia Tech to a 73-58 victory over Boston College, the Hokies’ ninth straight win.

Taylor Soule, one of two BC transfers on the roster for Virginia Tech (9-0, 1-0 ACC), added nine points and five rebounds. Soule scored more than 1,500 points and grabbed almost 700 rebounds in four seasons at BC, earning All-ACC honors three times.

Andrea Daley scored 15 points and Maria Gakdeng scored 14 for BC (7-4, 0-1). They each grabbed six rebounds.

Virginia Tech scored 17 of the game’s first 21 points and led by as many as 19 in the third quarter before BC cut the deficit to 10 in the fourth. Leading 64-54 with under three minutes left and the shot clock expiring, Kayana Traylor hit a 3-pointer for the Hokies.

Gakdeng missed two free throws for BC, and then Kitley scored from inside to make it a 15-point game.

Clara Ford, who also played four years in Chestnut Hill, pitched in 2 points in 2 minutes against her former team.

BIG PICTURE

At No. 7, the Hokies have the highest ranking in the program’s history. With the victory over BC, a 10th straight win against North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday would leave Virginia Tech in position to move up even higher should a top five team falter.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: Hosts North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday.

Boston College: Hosts Albany on Saturday.

Michigan’s Jaelin Llewellyn out for season with knee injury

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan point guard Jaelin Llewellyn is out for the rest of the season with an injured left knee and is expected to have surgery next month.

Wolverines coach Juwan Howard made the announcement three days after Llewellyn was hurt in a loss to Kentucky in London.

Llewellyn transferred to Michigan from Princeton last spring and that seemed to lead to Frankie Collins transferring to Arizona State after a solid freshman season for the Wolverines.

Llewellyn averaged seven points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in eight games at Michigan. He was an All-Ivy League player last season and averaged nearly 16 points over three seasons at Princeton.