Tre Jones, Jack White steal the show as No. 2 Duke knocks off No. 12 Texas Tech

Sarah Stier/Getty Images
0 Comments

NEW YORK — Madison Square Garden was buzzing the way that only The Mecca does on Thursday night, as 19,812 people packed into the World’s Most Famous Arena to see No. 2 Duke and their traveling band of soon-to-be NBA superstars take on a Texas Tech team that was simultaneously ranked 12th in the country and totally anonymous in the city that couldn’t care less about them.

The crowd was 80-percent Duke fans — amongst them Jimmy Butler, who is close with Tre Jones because of his relationship with Tre’s older brother Tyus —  but it was the traveling Texas Tech support that made 80-percent of the noise as the Red Raiders controlled this game for the first 35 minutes.

Chris Beard’s team took Cam Reddish completely out of the game. He had one point with four minutes left, furthering the questions about what in the world is going on with the player some believe has the highest ceiling of anyone in this draft class. R.J. Barrett missed 14 of his first 17 shots from the floor. Zion Williamson, the show-stopper, picked up three charges going up against a Red Raider defense designed to do exactly that, fouling out with 3:51 left after playing just 23 foul-plagued minutes.

Texas Tech didn’t play a perfect basketball game, but it was damn close to it.

And Duke still managed to find a way to win. The final score was 69-58, covering the spread and leaving the box score watchers wondering if Texas Tech was ever actually in this game. Big shots and clutch plays from Barrett and Reddish made that happen.

But the credit for this win, the reason that Duke was in a position to be able to eke out a W like this against a team like that, belongs to the players whose names you may not have known until last night: Tre Jones and Jack White.

“They were huge,” assistant coach Jon Scheyer said. “Difference-makers for us.”

They are, at the same time, happy being anonymous and precisely what makes this Duke team so dangerous.


Jack White (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Jack White was an afterthought.

A 6-foot-7 forward from Australia and a junior that had spent his first two seasons in Durham keeping the seats on Duke’s bench heated for the likes of Jayson Tatum, Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter, White seemed destined for another year’s worth of mop-up duty with this iteration of the Blue Devils.

They were bringing three wings into the mix that could all end up being top three picks in the 2019 NBA Draft, and a pair of junior centers — Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier — seemed destined to soak up whatever frontcourt minutes were leftover. White was just a guy, that line of thinking went, a player that was talented enough to give Duke’s relevant pieces a fight in practice while lighting it up on the scout team.

But nothing more, we thought.

At no point during the preseason did I — or anyone outside of the Duke program, really — think that White would end up being the piece that made Duke’s four star freshmen fit, but here we are. The best lineup that Duke can put on the floor features Traralgon, Victoria’s finest alongside Zion, R.J., Cam and Tre.

Yes, this is real life.

White is quick enough to switch onto point guards and tough enough to battle in the paint against centers. He was guarding Texas Tech star Jarrett Culver on key possessions down the stretch less than a month after he was guarding Gonzaga’s bigs during Duke’s comeback against the Zags in Maui. He can board, he can wall-up and protect the rim, he won’t get embarrassed if he’s left on an island defensively. That is the definition of defensive versatility, of position-less basketball.

Then there is what he provides offensively: He actually make threes on a consistent and trustworthy basis.

Never was that more apparent than on Thursday, when he hit two clutch second half threes on a night where the Blue Devils shot 3-for-20 from beyond the arc. Duke missed their first 15 threes. White made two in the final 12 minutes. The first tied game at 45. The second gave Duke a 56-55 lead they would never relinquish.

“When it’s not going well and Jack White hits that three, that’s a huge shot,” Mike Krzyzewski said.

He provides the spacing the Blue Devils so desperately need on the offensive end. Perhaps more importantly, on a roster full of ball-dominant talents, he doesn’t need to have the ball in his hands in order to be an effective weapon. No one else on Duke is able to provide the combination of skills that White can, and when slotted alongside those four freshmen, Duke’s ‘death lineup’ is complete.

“The beauty of Jack,” Scheyer said, “is he can plug in for anybody because of his defense versatility. On offense, he doesn’t need the ball. We have enough guys that can make plays. He brings every body together on both ends. He’s really the glue for us.”

“That’s literally what we call him,” Barrett chuckled, sitting in Alonzo Trier’s locker in the Knicks locker room after the game. “The Glue.”



Tre Jones was bred to be a defender.

Four years younger than Tyus, Tre spent his entire life playing up. Soft wasn’t an option, not if he wanted to be on the same court as the player that was a legend in his city and his state before he had a learner’s permit.

Tre couldn’t afford to back down from anyone or anything.

“My whole life I played up,” he said. “I was always the smallest kid on the court.”

Tre is the youngest of three brothers. Everyone knows about Tyus, who is four years his senior. Fewer know about Jadee, who is 14 years older than Tre and has spent a decade working as a trainer for his younger brothers. Jadee is a former Division I player in his own right, and started working out daily with Tyus when Tyus was heading into high school. Tre was in fourth grade, and like every youngest brother in every family on the planet, he wanted nothing more than to be included.

When Tyus worked out with Jadee, Tre would go, too. When Tyus would work on improving his body, Tre would be right there, too. And the way that Jadee sees it, these are the days that molded Tre into the player that he is today. He’s a better athlete than Tyus because he started developing that athleticism at a younger age. He takes pride in his defense because he was the nine-year old that had to earn respect working out with his older brother, the star eighth-grader on a high school basketball team.

Tyus has always been something of a basketball savant, a player whose understanding of the game allows him to outperform physical gifts that, by an NBA standard, are lacking.

Tre’s different.

“Tre goes at being a point guard with a lot of fire,” Jadee told NBC Sports last year. “With his feet, the things you can see, the hustle plays, the defense, the rebounding, taking charges, scoring in transition.”

And on a night where defense was king, Thursday was Tre’s coming out party. He finished the night with six steals, forced twice as many turnovers and staked his claim to the title of best defender in college basketball this season. He did it all while committing just one of the 43 turnovers by both teams on Thursday night.

“Tre plays like that every game,” Barrett said. “That’s what he does every day.”

The oft-forgotten member of Duke’s freshmen class and the younger brother of a Duke Final Four MOP, Tre embodies every point guard cliché in the book. He’s tough, both physically and mentally. He couldn’t care less about what stats show up in the box score as long as his team has more points than the other team. He’s unselfish. He’s a leader. He “makes winning plays.” In a way, he couldn’t be more perfect to play the point at Duke; he’s Wojo with NBA pedigree.

“He’s a great leader, but he leads by action,” Barrett said. “He talks, but his action speaks louder than his words.”

When asked for an example, Barrett said that on Thursday night there was a timeout in the second half, when Texas Tech was on a run, “and after we came out the huddle, he told us we have to play with heart. He’s going to give it everything he has and we just have to follow him.”

And that’s precisely what he did.

Anyone that watched this game could see the impact that Jones had on it defensively. He was credited with six steals, which was probably half the number of turnovers that he forced and in no way comes close to signifying the impact that he had on Texas Tech’s offense.

“He’s as good on the ball (defensively) as we’ve had — Amaker, Wojo, Hurley. He’s in the class with all those guys,” Mike Krzyzewski said, adding that Jones is the best Duke defender since Chris Duhon. “He can make reads like LeBron or Chris Paul did when I was coaching Team USA. There aren’t many freshmen who can do that.”


Tre Jones (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Duke is going to go as far as Zion, R.J. and Cam will carry them this season.

No one can, with a straight face, say otherwise.

That’s the Big Three and it’s always going to be the Big Three.

But that is also beside the point: There are going to be nights where those three struggle to get things going. There are going to be nights where Duke runs into a team that can stagnate their dribble-drive offense. There are going to be nights where they need to find a spark elsewhere.

If there is one thing that we learned on Thursday, it’s that Tre Jones and Jack White can be that spark when they need to be.

And the result, in the end, is that Duke landed their best win of the season.

Flagler, No. 6 Baylor rally late, top No. 14 Gonzaga 64-63

Baylor vs. Gonzaga
USA Today
0 Comments

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — In a rematch of the 2021 national championship game, Adam Flagler hit a pair of 3s as No. 6 Baylor scored the final eight points to rally past No. 14 Gonzaga 64-63 Friday night.

Gonzaga’s Rasir Bolton missed a wild, driving layup try at the buzzer.

Two seasons ago, Baylor beat the then-undefeated Zags 86-70 to win its first title. This time, the Bears didn’t take the lead for good until Jalen Bridges made two free throws with 16 seconds left.

“Adam is a great leader, but no one knew he wasn’t feeling well today,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “To be honest, some players wouldn’t have played. He played through the pain and left it all out on the court. As a coach, I appreciate that.”

The Bears (6-2) trailed 63-56 before Flagler hit a 3-pointer with 1:33 left. Flagler’s 3 with just over a minute to play cut Baylor’s deficit to 63-62.

After a Gonzaga shot clock violation, Flagler’s 3-point attempt for the lead was off the mark, but Bridges was fouled by Drew Timme on the rebound attempt. Bridges hit two foul shots to put Baylor ahead.

The Zags (5-3) had a final chance when Bolton caught an inbounds pass near his own foul line with 4.6 seconds remaining. He drove the lane, but his off-balance shot went high off the glass and missed as the buzzer sounded.

“We took two balls down hill and tried to make plays at the rim. At that point in the game, those are tough,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. “It’s very disappointing. They made plays, man.”

Freshman Keyonte George had 18 points and seven rebounds for Baylor. Flagler had 11 points and Langston Love added 10.

“I trust my work. I was able to knock them down,” George said. “My teammates believe in me each and every day. They give me that confidence in a big game to make big shots like that.”

Malchi Smith scored 16 points for Gonzaga. Anton Watson added a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Timme had nine points.

Baylor led by as many as 12 in the first half before Gonzaga closed to five at the break.

Watson’s basket put Gonzaga ahead 41-40. From there, the teams swapped leads over the next 13 minutes as the second half featured two ties and 14 lead changes.

A thunderous dunk from Smith gave Gonzaga its seven-point lead with under two minutes to go.

BIG PICTURE

Baylor: The win was a big rebound for Baylor after its 26-point loss to Marquette earlier in the week. The loss was the Bears’ most lopsided since they fell to Kansas 82-56 in 2007

Gonzaga: After opening the season ranked No. 2 in the AP preseason poll, the Zags have now lost two of three.

STAR WATCH

Timme began the night leading the Bulldogs in scoring at 20 points per game. He was hampered by foul trouble against Baylor and got his first field goal with six minutes remaining. He fouled out with 16 seconds to play.

REMATCH PLAYERS

Four players on the floor Friday night had significant minutes in the championship game two years ago including Flagler, Timme and Watson, along with Baylor’s Flo Thamba.

UP NEXT

Baylor: The Bears return home to host Tarleton on Tuesday before playing Washington State on Sunday in Dallas for the Pac 12 Coast-to-Coast Challenge.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs return to Spokane for three straight beginning Monday when they face Kent State for the first time in school history.

Carr scores 19, No. 2 Texas beats No. 7 Creighton 72-67

Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
2 Comments

AUSTIN, Texas – Texas had pressured Creighton’s shooters into a miserable night, only to watch a late flurry of 3-pointers start swishing.

An 11-point Longhorns lead was down to three.

That hardly rattled Marcus Carr and the second-ranked Longhorns, who stepped up with big late shots of their own and steady free-throw shooting to secure another impressive early-season victory, 72-67 over the seventh-ranked Bluejays on Thursday night.

Carr scored 19 points and made two free throws with 10 seconds left as Texas held off Creighton’s furious late-game rally.

Creighton struggled through a wretched 3-point shooting night, but pulled within 62-59 thanks in part to five points in a row by Baylor Scheierman. Carr’s baseline jumper and an easy layup by Tyrese Hunter when Creighton lost him on an inbound pass with 46 seconds left stretched the Longhorns’ lead again.

That didn’t quite close the door on Creighton, which got two more 3-pointers from Scheierman, who had missed his first nine attempts. That forced Texas to finish it from the free-throw line behind Carr and Brock Cunningham. Cunningham’s two free throws with 4 seconds left were his only points of the game.

“There’s going to be a bunch of times one of us has to go down there and knock down a bunch of free throws,” Carr said. “We talk about it all the time.”

The matchup was part of the Big 12-Big East Battle and Texas earned its second win over a top-10 opponent in its new arena. The Longhorns (6-0) beat then-No. 2 Gonzaga on Nov. 16 and have their highest ranking since they were No. 1 during the 2009-2010 season.

“I don’t think we’ve proven anything,” Texas coach Chris Beard said. “We’re just a team that’s trying to get better.”

Hunter scored 15 points for Texas.

Ryan Kalkbrenner had 20 points and 13 rebounds for Creighton (6-2), and Ryan Nembhard scored 17 points. The Bluejays were 4 of 27 on 3-pointers.

Scheierman, a 44% shooter from beyond the arc this season, made three 3s in a row late. His off-balance shot from the right corner over a defender pulled the Bluejays within 68-65 with 11.4 seconds left.

Scheierman finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

“The reality is you are gonna have nights,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “It just happens. We don’t ever want him to stop shooting.”

BIG PICTURE

Creighton: Kalkbrenner was all but unstoppable on a 9-of-10 shooting night for the Bluejays, who kept launching from long range instead of looking for their 7-foot-1 center.

Texas: The Longhorns couldn’t force their usual numbers of turnovers and fast-break points, but were exceptionally clean with the ball on offense. Texas had just three turnovers that Creighton turned into three points.

FORMER TEAMMATES

Texas senior forward Christian Bishop played three seasons at Creighton before transferring prior to last season. He finished with six points and four rebounds in 16 minutes.

“We understood what this game was, not just for our team but for Christian,” Carr said.

TIRED TEAM

McDermott suggested his team maybe just wore out. The Bluejays went 2-1 in the Maui Invitational last week and then played their first game of the season on an opponent’s home court.

“Three games in three days against ranked teams (in Hawaii) and then to come in here,” McDermott said. “That’s a lot to ask of my team.”

UP NEXT

Creighton hosts in-state rival Nebraska on Sunday.

Texas plays No. 16 Illinois in New York City on Dec. 6 in the Jimmy V Classic.

No. 20 Maryland upsets No. 7 Notre Dame at the buzzer, 74-72

maryland basketball
Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Diamond Miller scored 31 points, including the game-winner at the buzzer, to lead No. 20 Maryland to a 74-72 victory over seventh-ranked Notre Dame on Thursday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Irish guard Sonia Cintron’s layup had tied the game with 15 seconds left off before Maryland held for the last shot. Miller hit a contested mid-range jumper just before time expired to give the Terrapins a victory over a top-10 opponent. It was the 15th lead change of the game.

Miller also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds to go along with five assists. Shyanne Sellers added 17 points.

Maryland (7-2) picked up its first win over Notre Dame (6-1) since 2007.

Cintron’s double-double led the Irish with 24 points and 10 rebounds.

Notre Dame’s leading scorer Olivia Miles got off to a slow start on Thursday due to foul trouble. She scored 12 of her 14 points in the final 15 minutes of the game to go along with seven assists and two steals.

BIG PICTURE

Maryland: The Terrapins picked up their second top-20 win of the season ahead of the upcoming Big Ten opener.

Notre Dame: The Irish have had issues with foul trouble this season, a problem that persisted on Thursday. Miles played just 25 minutes, including the majority of the fourth quarter, due to picking up her fourth foul late in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Maryland: Returns to College Park for the program’s Big Ten opener Sunday against Nebraska.

Notre Dame: Stays home to host No. 3 UConn Sunday.

Virginia’s depth helping its rapid climb in the AP Top 25

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

The starting five is the same, but that is where comparisons between the Virginia team that has climbed to No. 3 in the AP Top 25 and last year’s NIT quarterfinalists ends.

Yes, one more year together and a trip to Italy has made the first five significantly better, but part of the credit for that surely goes to another group: the reinforcements. They’ve helped the Cavaliers (6-0) already knock off No. 6 Baylor, No. 16 Illinois and Michigan.

Virginia has scored 70 points or more in its first six game for the first time since the 2003-04 season, and coach Tony Bennett said it was the offense – and not UVA’s signature relentless defense – that saved them in a 70-68 victory this week at Michigan in the ACC/Bg Ten Challenge.

“Our offense kind of kept us in it in the first half,” Bennett said, before the team put it all together, erasing an 11-point halftime deficit to disappoint a raucous Wolverines crowd.

Reece Beekman was the offensive catalyst, scoring 15 of his 18 points before halftime, but four others joined him in double figures, including Jayden Gardner. His foul-line jumper with 39.9 seconds left provided the last of his 11 points, and the winning margin.

Gardner, who led Virginia in scoring last season (15.3 ppg), is averaging 11.5 this year.

“We’ve got a lot of capable scorers and we’re just gonna keep playing together. And we’re playing very unselfish basketball right now,” Gardner said after scoring 24 against Maryland Eastern Shore. He went into the game with 31 points through four games.

“He’s not the most jumping type of guy, but he’s got so much power,” Hawks coach Jason Crafton said of Gardner, an East Carolina transfer with 2,068 career points. “That low center of gravity and the flexibility that he has to be able to get under people and hold his position is elite. When he wants the ball at a certain spot, he can get it there.”

The leader remains guard Kihei Clark, who already has a place in Virginia history, having retrieved a loose ball and fed Mamadi Diakite for a jumper that sent the Cavs’ Elite Eight game against Purdue into overtime on the way to winning the 2019 national championship.

Newcomers Ben Vander Plas, a transfer from Ohio, and freshman Isaac McKneely have given Bennett more options, and more scoring power than a year ago.

As a junior, Vander Plas had 17 points for No. 13 seed Ohio when the Bobcats upset Virginia 62-58 in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

He scored seven straight in the second half against the Wolverines, twice scoring inside and then swishing a 3-pointer while trying to slow down bruising big man Hunter Dickinson.

“Ben, yeah. Just his poise and composure in the post, took advantage of some mismatches and he really gave us a great lift,” Bennett said. Vander Plas is the son of a teammate of Bennett’s at Green Bay, and his first name is a tribute to Bennett’s father, Dick.

McKneely scored 15 and made 4 of 6 3-point tries in an 89-42 victory against Monmouth

“He was standing in front of our bench. I’m like, `Listen, we’re not helping off him,”‘ Monmouth coach King Rice said he told his team, pointing at McKneely, a two-time player of the year in West Virginia. “And he kind of looked at me and I said, `Yeah, you, because you make all of them,’ and he started laughing.”

Ryan Dunn also made quite the impression on Rice in his first collegiate appearance, scoring 13 points with six rebounds and three blocks in almost 27 minutes.

“I was in the building when De’Andre Hunter came off the bench and had a breakout game,” Rice said of Hunter, now with the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. “Dunn reminds me a lot of Hunter, and you can tell he’s young. But when he grows into that body with that skill set, he’ll be giving people problems for a long, long time.”

The Cavaliers open Atlantic Coast Conference play against Florida State, then host top-ranked Houston, which beat them 67-47 last season, a week later.

“A good schedule for sure and it tests you, it kind of shows you, win or lose, you see where you’ve got some holes,” Bennett said.

So far, the Cavaliers have been able to fill them all.

No. 4 Arizona turning heads early in the season

arizona basketball
David Cruz/USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd knew there was talent on his roster. He wasn’t exactly sure how good the team would be.

The former longtime Gonzaga assistant had a similar view of last year’s team and that one turned out to be pretty good, running all the way to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.

This year’s team could end up being even better.

Buoyed by transfers and improved returning players, Arizona has rolled through the early part of its schedule, climbing to No. 4 in this week’s AP Top 25 after winning the Maui Invitational.

“I learned that we’re good,” Lloyd said. “We’re tough. We’re gritty. I think there’s going to be some great things for us to really double down on and some things to show our guys where we went the wrong way.”

Lloyd had a superb first season in the desert, earning coach of the year honors last season with a team that lost three players to the NBA.

The Wildcats (6-0) had to replace three NBA players again this season. Again, they made a seamless transition.

Improvement on the part of the returning players has been a big part of it.

Oumar Ballo, considered a project as a freshman at Gonzaga, has transformed into one of the nation’s best big men. The 7-foot, 260-pound center from Mali has vastly improved his footwork and developed patience in the post, setting himself up for good shots instead of trying to bull his way to the basket.

Ballo is averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 76.7% from the field, fourth-best nationally. He was named Maui Invitational MVP after finishing with 30 points and 13 rebounds against No. 7 Creighton in the title game.

Not bad for a player who averaged 2.5 points and 6.3 minutes per game two years ago at Gonzaga.

“When he struggled, I still believed in him,” Lloyd said. “I didn’t need for him to be instantly successful for me to reaffirm my belief in him. When he struggled, we continued to love him and work with him and then he continued to hang in there and I think it is a great story.”

Fellow big man Azuolas Tubelis has made a few strides of his own, adding strength and toughness to his athletic, fluid game. The 6-10 forward leads Arizona with 19.3 points per game while grabbing 8.0 rebounds.

Fiery point guard Kerr Kriisa has rounded into a reliable floor leader, averaging 15.3 points and 7.5 assists while shooting 51% from the 3-point arc.

“I don’t pay attention to the antics because they don’t mean anything to me,” Lloyd said. “I know maybe that draws attention to him from other people but when it comes to just pure basketball, I mean he is doing a good job and I think he is really showing something.”

So is Courtney Ramey.

The Texas transfer has given the Wildcats a huge boost in his first season in Tucson, providing hounding defense, leadership and another scoring option. He’s averaging 16 points per game and has hit 10 of 16 from 3-point range so far this season.

Campbell transfer Cedric Henderson Jr. has provided an athletic lift off the bench and 7-foot Estonian Henri Veesaar has given Arizona solid minutes.

The mix of new and old has helped Arizona lead the nation with 97.5 points a game and rank second with 21.8 assists per game. The Wildcats climbed 10 spots in this week’s poll after wins over Cincinnati, No. 24 San Diego State and Creighton.

Arizona opens Pac-12 play Thursday at Utah.

“It was good to get the recognition, but we’re not satisfied,” Ramey said. “Our ultimate goal is to be No. 1 at the end of the season and be the final two teams playing, so I think the regular season matters but it’s not the ultimate goal for us.”

The Wildcats are certainly off to a good start.