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No. 2 Duke rolls past Central Arkansas 105-54 for 3-0 start

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DURHAM, N.C. — Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is pushing his young Blue Devils to worry about defense above all else, both in the intensity of their fullcourt pursuit and their ability to attack the right matchup.

That approach, he said, is “how our team is going to be built.”

And the second-ranked Blue Devils are showing the ability to meet the Hall of Famer’s expectation in their first games together.

Freshman Matthew Hurt scored a season-high 19 points to help Duke beat Central Arkansas 105-54 on Tuesday night, winning easily with overwhelming defense despite seeing starting point guard Tre Jones exit after being shaken up on a first-half collision.

Fellow freshman Vernon Carey Jr. added season highs of 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Blue Devils (3-0), who ran off 19 straight points to build a 25-5 lead by midway through the opening half. That margin reached 57-20 by halftime, with Duke shooting nearly 57% and scoring 26 points off turnovers for the game.

“I’d have to say our defense is probably the best part of our offense right now,” senior Jack White said. “We’re forcing turnovers and getting out in transition and really just getting some easy buckets to start the game so guys can get in a groove.”

Jones — the returning floor leader for a team that has turned over its rotation with another recruiting wave — played 9 minutes. He left after colliding with Central Arkansas’ Aaron Weidenaar as the two chased a loose rebound with 7:57 left before halftime.

Jones laid on the court holding his head then rolled over onto his stomach while being attended by team medical staff, though he was able to eventually walk slowly to the bench. He spent the second half on the bench talking with coaches and teammates wearing a warmup shirt over his jersey.

Krzyzewski said Jones appears to be fine.

Rylan Bergersen scored 13 points for the Bears (1-3), who were overwhelmed from the start with long stretches between baskets and a series of throwaways and deflected-pass turnovers. Central Arkansas shot just 5 of 23 (21.7%) with 15 turnovers in the opening half.

“You fight pressure at the rim,” Bears coach Russ Pennell said. “And I thought we did the opposite. … We have a rule: we don’t throw bounce passes on the perimeter. We threw like four that got intercepted. And I think that’s what pressure does to you. It makes you do things that are kind of uncharacteristic.”

BIG PICTURE

Central Arkansas: This was one of several tough matchups on the schedule for the Bears, who have four returning starters and are picked to finish fifth in the Southland Conference. They lost by 44 points at No. 24 Baylor to open the season, and their second game against a power-conference matchup didn’t go much better.

Duke: The Blue Devils are tinkering with a deep lineup to figure out what works best, though they’re positioned to climb to No. 1 in next week’s AP Top 25 with top-ranked Kentucky’s home loss to Evansville on Tuesday night.

QUICK WIT

Krzyzewski said Jones took a hit to the temple in the collision but was “laughing and joking” afterward.

“I asked him if he knew my name,” Krzyzewski said. “He said, `Michael,’ which was kind of bold on his part.”

NEW LOOKS

Hurt started the first two games but came off the bench in favor of White, then had an immediate impact with 10 first-half points and started the second half over White. Duke also got a look at freshman Wendell Moore Jr. running the point to start the second half with Jones out.

“We’re just looking at different combinations,” Krzyzewski said.

TIP-INS

Duke had 14 steals Tuesday, and its 37 steals through the first three games are its most since the 2006-07 season. … Freshman Cassius Stanley had 13 points and made all five of his shots. He’s now shooting 81.8% (18 of 22), trailing only Jahlil Okafor (.833 in 2014-15), Cherokee Parks (.824 in 1991-92) and Zion Williamson (.821 last year) for the best shooting percentage by a Duke freshman through their first three games. … Central Arkansas shot 3 for 15 from 3-point range and finished with 21 turnovers.

UP NEXT

Central Arkansas: The Bears host Little Rock on Sunday.

Duke: The Blue Devils host Georgia State on Friday.

Tre Jones, No. 4 Duke get ‘tough’ as they knock off No. 3 Kansas, 68-66

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NEW YORK — The rules of basketball stipulate that, at the end of every game, one team has to score more points than the other team. There are no ties, which means, by definition, someone had to win on Tuesday night in the Garden, even if No. 3 Kansas and No. 4 Duke spent 40 minutes playing like neither of them were capable of such a monumental feat.

When the final buzzer sounded, Duke had gotten the job done. Tre Jones scored the final six points for the Blue Devils, finishing with 15 on the night to go along with six boards, six assists and three steals in a 68-66 win in the opening game of the 2019 Champions Classic.

But it was far from a vintage Duke performance.

The Blue Devils shot 35.9 percent from the floor. They were 8-for-24 from three and 14-for-23 from the line. They turned the ball over on 20 percent of their possessions — 16 times in total. For a team that is just a year removed from the Zion and R.J. show, for a program that has become synonymous with the one-and-done era and NBA-ready talent, those are not the kind of performances that we’ve come to expect.

Especially when they result in wins over top five teams.

But that’s who this Duke team is going to be.

They are going to have to win ugly. They are going to win with their defense. This is what happens when the best player on your roster is Tre Jones. It’s what happens when you build a roster around a freshmen class that doesn’t have one of those elite freshmen.

“Zion and R.J., those freshmen weren’t freshmen,” Duke associate head coach Jon Scheyer said. “Wendell [Carter] and Marvin [Bagley III], they weren’t freshmen. Our freshmen are freshmen.”

The point that Scheyer is so eloquently making is that Duke doesn’t have a lottery level talent on their roster. “Even if one of these dudes ends up getting picked 14th, the point remains true,” one NBA front office member told NBC Sports, and if Tuesday night was any indication, that should work just fine.

It’s because of Jones.

“The difference maker for us was Tre,” Mike Krzyzewski said. “We have a lot of young guys and a lot of new guys but we’ve really tried to play good defense in our first 30 practices and it paid off tonight. We played really good defense and it starts off with that kid and the poise he had.”

This Duke team has embraced his identity. What Jones lacks in an NBA-ready jumper he makes up for with toughness, both mentally and on the defensive end of the floor. What he lacks in physical tools he makes up for in heart and intangibles. He’s one of those guys that you call a winner, one of those players that that others gravitate towards. The result is a roster that has fully embraced what he personifies.

“We are a hard, tough team,” Duke’s standout freshman Cassius Stanley said after the game. “It’s going to be ugly, coach said that, but it’s going to look good at the end. [Tonight] proved it to me.”

Stanley is a fitting player to point out here. He was the least-heralded member of Duke’s 2019 recruiting class, but an argument could be made that he had the biggest impact on Tuesday night. Stanley scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half, including a pair of thunderous dunks that killed the momentum Kansas had built early in the half. He wasn’t expected to start. He didn’t really start come on strong in practice until recently. But here he was, on the biggest stage college basketball has to offer this side of the postseason, dunking his way into going viral.

“Cassius would verbally come to me [during the game] saying different things, telling me to lead, telling me he’s following whatever I do,” Jones said.

Stanley wasn’t alone.

Matthew Hurt and Vernon Carey Jr. both had moments, finishing with 11 points apiece. Carey his a huge three when Duke was down by nine points early in the second half and Hurt hit a bigger three late in the period. Kansas was up 55-51 at the time, and after Jack White had intercepted a pass Ochai Agbaji made when it looked like the Jayhawks were going to get a layup on a 2-on-1 break, Hurt buried the three at the other end. He capped off a five-point swing.

But we knew they were capable of those things.

What I did not know they were capable of was this: Holding All-American center Udoka Azubuike to just eight points and nine boards on 3-for-4 shooting, an admirable job on one of the most dominant players in the sport. As a team, Duke forced Kansas into 27 turnovers, an astonishingly high number for a team that returns as much experience in their backcourt as anyone at the top of the polls. Every Kansas starter had at least three turnovers. Devon Dotson and Ochai Agbaji had five turnovers apiece. At one point late in the first half, Kansas had 18 turnovers and 17 field goals attempted.

This is how Duke is going to have to win this season.

This is what happens when the best player on the roster, the guy that sets the tone for everything they do during a game, is Jones.

“As a freshman last year, I was looking at older guys, trying to see what it really was like. Knowing that they’re going through the same thing, I know I always have to have a strong face. Doing the right thing so they know what to do.”

“We just have to stay locked in to what our strengths are,” Stanley said. “Defense, veteran leadership.

“This was no surprise.”

Nwora scores 23 to lead No. 5 Louisville past Miami 87-74

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CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Jordan Nwora went 4 for 6 from beyond the arc, and from above the basket he didn’t miss.

Nwora threw in a dunk — literally — to go with his outside shooting, and totaled 23 points and 12 rebounds Tuesday to help the fifth-ranked Cardinals win their season opener at Miami, 87-74.

The Cardinals are touted as a potential Final Four team, and they lived up to the hype with a rout on the road against an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent. Louisville led 72-40 before Miami rallied during garbage time.

Nwora, the preseason ACC player of the year, brought the Louisville bench to its feet when he leaped to make a one-handed catch and dunk in one motion on Ryan McMahon’s alley-oop pass.

“I actually did not think he was going to be able to catch it,” McMahon said. “I thought it was too bad of a pass. Somehow he snatched it out of the air and just threw it in the rim. He’s a freak athlete. It was a real cool play.”

Coach Chris Mack was more reserved in his review of the dunk.

“I don’t rate those things,” Mack said. “I’m just glad he didn’t miss it. I would have made him run sprints.”

The 6-foot-7 Nwora shot 8 for 16 and scored most of his points from the perimeter.

“Every time we left him open, even for a split second, he buried a 3,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said.

McMahon, a Florida native, sank three consecutive 3-pointers as Louisville scored 17 consecutive points during a four-minute span in the first half and never looked back.

McMahon scored 16 points and shot 4 for 7 from beyond the arc.

“He’s an elite-level shooter — as good as anybody in the country,” Mack said.

Freshman Samuell Williamson made his Louisville debut with 13 points and five rebounds in 24 minutes.

“He doesn’t look like a freshman on offense,” Mack said.

Dwayne Sutton contributed 16 points for the Cardinals, who shot 54%.

Chris Lykes had 18 points and DJ Vasiljevic scored 16 for the Hurricanes.

“We need to make progress in all areas,” Larranaga said.

He sent three freshmen into the game early in the first half, and they helped the Hurricanes score eight consecutive points to lead 16-9.

The Cardinals answered with their big run to surge ahead 26-16. A 9-0 run late in the half helped to make it 45-26 at halftime.

“We came out with some jitters, and once we settled down we were a little bit more comfortable,” McMahon said.

BIG PICTURE

The crowd included actor Bill Murray, whose son is a Louisville assistant coach, and 18 NBA scouts from 13 teams. The scouts saw plenty to like from the Cardinals, who return six of the top seven scorers from last season’s NCAA tournament squad.

Defense remains a problem for the Hurricanes, who last season allowed opponents to shoot 45% and average 71 points, the worst numbers in Larranaga’s eight years at Miami.

INJURY REPORT

Louisville junior forward Malik Williams (foot) and freshman guard David Johnson (shoulder) are still recovering from offseason injuries.

Miami’s Keith Stone, a 6-foot-8 graduate transfer from Florida, sat out while he continues to recover from an ACL injury. The Hurricanes hope he can return in January.

DOUBLEHEADER

Cardinals fans made up a large portion of the crowd of 7,576. Louisville will try for a sweep of the Hurricanes when it plays at Miami in football Saturday.

“We did our part,” Mack said.

UP NEXT

Louisville plays its home opener Sunday against Youngstown State in the first meeting between the two schools.

Miami hosts Florida Atlantic on Friday. The Hurricanes are 23-1 in the series, with their lone loss in December 2002.

North Carolina adds commitment from five-star 2020 guard Caleb Love

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North Carolina added its third five-star commitment in the Class of 2020 with guard Caleb Love’s pledge to the Tar Heels with a public announcement.

The 6-foot-3 Love can play either guard spot as he’s an attacking guard with a lot of upside on defense. Giving North Carolina stability at guard with the expected one-and-done departure of freshman point guard Cole Anthony, Love’s commitment is a big one for the Tar Heels.

Joining five-star big men Walker Kessler and Day’Ron Sharpe, North Carolina has its first ball handler in the 2020 class as Love should join a backcourt that includes Anthony Harris and Jeremiah Francis in the future plans. Love’s ability to play point guard at the college level will be something to watch for as he’s transitioned to the position from being more of a shooting guard.

North Carolina found success with that formula with Coby White before he became a top-ten pick, so Love was clearly sold on the idea of playing in the Tar Heels’ offense and having a chance to potentially play right away. The St. Louis native is regarded as the No. 21 overall prospect in the nation, according to Rivals, as Love picked North Carolina over his other finalist of Missouri.

The Tar Heels are also working hard to get commitments from other five star targets such as Cade Cunningham and Ziare Williams. So far, North Carolina has the makings of another monster class as head coach Roy Williams continues to be a major factor on the trail late in his legendary run.

Virginia lands four-star 2020 wing Jabri Abdur-Rahim

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Virginia continued its hot recruiting run on Wednesday as the Cavaliers landed a commitment from four-star Class of 2020 wing Jabri Abdur-Rahim.

The son of former NBA all-star Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Jabri is regarded as a high-end, four-star prospect as he checks in at No. 41 overall in the Rivals national Class of 2020 rankings.

At 6-foot-6, Jabri was one of the Nike EYBL’s most productive players this spring as he ran with the Playaz Club out of New Jersey. Putting up 25.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game in 13 games this spring, Abdur-Rahim showcased big-time scoring ability while also helping out on the glass. While Abdur-Rahim will have to improve his 39 percent field-goal percentage and 30 percent three-point shooting, he will be forced to take more efficient looks once he’s in the Virginia offense.

Head coach Tony Bennett continues to do a fine job of gathering 2020 commitments as the Cavaliers beat Michigan in the race for Abdur-Rahim. The third pledge for Virginia in 2020, Abdur-Rahim joins four-star guard Reece Beekman and three-star guard Carson McCorkle in the class so far. With three commitments in 2020, Virginia can comb the class for another player or start focusing on younger classes as the program is ahead of many others when it comes to future commitments.

NCAA gives N.C. State notice of allegations connected to recruitment of Dennis Smith Jr.

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The NCAA continues to investigate schools connected to the FBI’s college basketball corruption cases as a notice of allegations to N.C. State was confirmed by the school on Wednesday afternoon.

The first school to receive an NCAA notice of allegations based on findings in the FBI’s cases, N.C. State is accused of two Level I violations (the most serious of violations) and two Level II violations connected to the recruitment of former point guard and NBA lottery pick Dennis Smith Jr.

The allegations include more than $47,000 in impermissible benefits for Smith, failure to monitor for the school and a violation of head coach responsibility for former head coach Mark Gottfried. Former N.C. State assistant coach Orlando Early is accused of allegedly helping steer a $40,000 payment from a former Adidas executive to Smith’s family in Oct. 2015.

During last October’s FBI corruption trial, former Adidas AAU coach and runner TJ Gassnola testified that he made two payments to the family of Smith. The first payment allegedly occurred while Smith was a junior in high school with the second one coming in 2015. Gassnola claims he delivered $40,000 in cash to Early’s house, which was then supposedly given to Smith’s trainer.

Gottfried is currently the head coach at Cal State Northridge while Early hasn’t coached in Division I since leaving N.C. State in 2017. The failure to monitor charge is a Level I allegation against Gottfried.

N.C. State, Gottfried and Early will have 90 days to respond to the NCAA’s claims before a hearing is conducted with the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions.

Chancellor Randy Woodson from N.C. State released an official statement on the NCAA’s allegations on Wednesday.

“NC State is committed to the highest levels of compliance, honesty and integrity,” Woodson said in a statement. “As the university carefully reviews the NCAA’s allegations and thoroughly evaluates the evidence in order to determine our response, we are prepared to be accountable where we believe it is appropriate and to vigorously defend this great university and its Athletics program where we feel it is necessary.”

While Smith is currently with the New York Knicks and won’t receive any punishment from the NCAA, the notice of allegations could have a big impact on N.C. State and Gottfried’s NCAA coaching career. The two Level I charges, in particular, are very serious as they could lead to severe punishments for the school and potential show-cause penalties for both Gottfried and Early.

The NCAA will likely continue to send notices to additional schools that were named in the FBI’s corruption cases as numerous players, coaches and programs were named under oath during multiple trials. This is likely the beginning of a busy few months for the NCAA as they sort through all of the damage that was unearthed from those trials.