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Reed’s 26 points help No. 19 Clemson beat Sam Houston State

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson coach Brad Brownell knows he has something many other programs don’t — a highly experienced backcourt to call on when things get tight.

Marcquise Reed had a season-high 26 points and point guard Shelton Mitchell 13 as the 19th-ranked Tigers used a second-half surge to put away pesky Sam Houston State 74-59 on Wednesday night.

“I better enjoy this, because I don’t think I’m going to have it next year,” Brownell said. “Those guys once again played well down the stretch.”

Particularly during a 16-3 run midway through the second half as they combined for 11 points while Clemson took control. The Tigers opened 3-0 for the second straight season and for just the fifth time in coach Brad Brownell’s nine years.

For a good while, though, it seemed the Bearkats of the Southland Conference were more than up to the challenge of handling an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent.

RJ Smith’s 3-pointer early in the second half put Sam Houston State ahead 38-37 before Clemson’s back-breaking run.

Reed scored seven straight points to start the run while Mitchell added a pair of baskets, one off a steal where he dribbled into an official before getting clear for the layup and a 53-41 lead.

“I told him that was bad defense,” Brownell joked about Mitchell.

The Bearkats (2-2) could not respond as Clemson eventually grew the margin to 16 points down the stretch.

Both Reed and Mitchell explored their NBA options last spring before choosing a final college year. They’re each committed, Reed said, to an even bigger season than last year when the 25-win Tigers advanced to the Sweet 16.

Reed said he and Mitchell know they’re the ones who must set the tone with Clemson’s younger players.

“We’ve been in a lot of these situations and scenarios before,” Reed said. “So it’s easy to spread it to the young guys.”

Aamir Simms had 12 points and eight rebounds for Clemson.

It was Reed’s second 20-point game of the season.

Kai Mitchell led Sam Houston State with 14 points and Josh Delaney added 11.

Clemson looked ready to blow things open early as it made its first six shots and led 15-7 five minutes in. But the Tigers went cold the rest of the half, and Sam Houston State took advantage.

Clemson made just five of its final 18 shots of the opening half and the Bearkats took the lead, 30-29 on Albert Almanza’s four-point play with 43.8 seconds left when he got fouled by Elijah Thomas.

But Clemson’s Mitchell answered with a long 3 20 seconds later to send the Tigers into the break up 32-30.

THE BIG PICTURE

Sam Houston State: The Bearkats have lost two in a row on the road. They showed an ability to hang with bigger Clemson for much of the game, but could not handle the Tigers’ experience in the backcourt with three-year starters in Reed and Mitchell.

Clemson: The Tigers struggled to shoot consistently. Their defense, though, held up throughout the game as they limited Sam Houston State to less than 35 percent shooting with six steals and five blocks.

TOUGH TIME FOR THOMAS

Thomas has played through a difficult stretch. He was hurting from an ankle injury in the Tigers’ first two games and played against Sam Houston State despite being sick with the flu. Thomas had a 101-degree temperature Monday. He played 25 minutes Wednesday night with three points, five rebounds and two blocks.

ROAD WOES

Sam Houston State coach Jason Hooten has not liked what he’s seen down the stretch in his team’s first two road games. The Bearkats had the lead in the second half at Louisiana Tech and at Clemson, yet lost both games.

“There’s been a moment where we had chance to seize, I’m not going to say the game, but the lead. We’re not ready for that yet,” he said.

UP NEXT

Sam Houston State concludes its two-game swing at Power Five programs by going to Georgia on Friday night.

Clemson plays Akron on Monday to start the Cayman Islands Classic.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Williamson, No. 1 Duke rout Eastern Michigan 84-46

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DURHAM, N.C. — Zion Williamson tossed up an alley-oop lob for RJ Barrett, and on the next trip downcourt, Barrett returned the favor by setting up a dunk for Williamson.

For these high-flying Blue Devils, that No. 1 ranking sure seems to fit.

Williamson scored 21 points, Barrett added 20 and Duke routed Eastern Michigan 84-46 on Wednesday night in its first game this season as the nation’s top-ranked team.

“It is great to be No. 1, but nobody really cares who’s No. 1 right now,” Williamson said. “The goal is to win a championship in March.”

Javin DeLaurier and Jack White added 10 points apiece for the Blue Devils (3-0). Playing two days after leapfrogging Kansas for the top spot in the AP Top 25, they looked every bit the part of a top-ranked team.

They shot 47 percent, turned 20 turnovers by the Eagles into 31 points and took command with an early 21-1 run keyed by an assortment of dunks by Williamson.

Damari Parris had nine points to lead outmanned Eastern Michigan (3-1), which shot 31 percent and was stuck in single-digit scoring for about 17 1/2 minutes.

Unlike their last game — in which Army hung with them for about 30 minutes three days earlier — the Blue Devils took the drama out of this one early.

“Everything we did kind of worked,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said, “but the reason it worked is because we played so hard.”

Williamson put Duke up by 20 for good midway through the first half with the highlight of the night — leaping so high to pull in a seemingly errant alley-oop pass that his armpits were even with the rim before he dunked — and Barrett made it a 30-point game with a bucket with about five minutes before halftime.

“The atmosphere got the best of us the first 6-7 minutes of the game,” Eastern Michigan coach Rob Murphy said. “It was a struggle for us to score in the first half, and once you get down in this building … it’s pretty hard to come back.”

BIG PICTURE

Eastern Michigan: Not surprisingly, the Eagles threw a 2/3 zone defense at the Blue Devils — Murphy spent seven years on the Syracuse staff with zone savant Jim Boeheim. It wasn’t much of an impediment to the nation’s top-ranked team, though that seems insignificant in the long run because nobody in the Mid-American Conference will match Duke’s talent level.

Duke: Being No. 1 is nothing new for the Duke program — the Blue Devils started the two previous seasons in the top spot — but it’s a new experience for these freshmen. Not that they seem affected in the slightest. Williamson has scored at least 20 points in all three games while making 32 of his 39 shots.

INJURY REPORT

Krzyzewski says 3-point-shooting threat Cameron Reddish was dealing with soreness in his groin but “nothing serious” and would have played more had the game been closer. Reddish finished with three points on 1-of-5 shooting in less than 12 minutes.

PLAY OF THE NIGHT

There were lots of choices, but the best of the bunch came midway through the first half when Reddish lobbed an alley-oop pass from just across midcourt that seemed headed for the seats. Williamson skied so high for it that his armpits and eyes were both at rim-level. That highlight-reel jam made it 28-7, putting Duke up by 20 for good.

STATS OF THE NIGHT

By the time Duke led by 20, Williamson had more dunks (four) than Eastern Michigan had field goals (three). … The Eagles led for 18 early seconds — when it was 2-0 — and that brought the total amount of time the Blue Devils have trailed this season to 30 total seconds.

UP NEXT

Eastern Michigan: Plays host to Boston University on Saturday.

Duke: Faces San Diego State on Monday in its Maui Invitational opener.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

VIDEO: Zion Williamson converts monster alley-oop on Eastern Michigan

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Duke freshman Zion Williamson is at it again.

The Blue Devils are hosting Eastern Michigan at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Wednesday night as Williamson got the Cameron Crazies rocking with a monster alley-oop.

Williamson’s head is at rim level as he catches the ball near the top of the square off of a half-court feed from fellow freshman Cam Reddish.

The No. 1 Blue Devils ended up blowing out Eastern Michigan with an 84-46 win as Williamson ended with a team-high 21 points on 10-for-12 shooting.

(h/t: ESPN and Andrew Doughty)

Duke lands four-star 2019 guard Boogie Ellis

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Duke picked up a commitment late Friday night as Class of 2019 four-star shooting guard Boogie Ellis pledged to the Blue Devils.

Although the San Diego native is not the typical five-star recruit commonly associated with Duke recruiting over the last several seasons, he is a valuable addition to the Blue Devil Class of 2019 recruiting haul. The 6-foot-2 Ellis became a national recruit this summer heading into fall thanks to his shot-making ability and knack for making clutch plays. Regarded as the No. 41 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2019 national rankings, Ellis should fit in well in Duke’s backcourt next season.

If point guard Tre Jones stays for his sophomore season, then he’ll have a quality complementary shooter in Ellis beside him and five-star wing Wendell Moore could also fit in at the three. Ellis averaged 17.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game in the Nike EYBL playing with the Oakland Soldiers this spring and summer. Perhaps most importantly, Ellis shot 46 percent from three-point range, meaning Duke’s floor-spacing will be greatly benefitted by his arrival.

Duke recruiting hasn’t been as dominant in this class as it has in the past few years. But that could quickly change in the coming weeks as the Blue Devils remain heavily involved with a number of top-ten prospects and five-star recruits.

VIDEO: Steve Kerr compares Duke’s Zion Williamson to LeBron James

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Zion Williamson Fever reached a new apex on Tuesday night as No. 4 Duke opened the 2018-19 college basketball season with a blowout win over No. 2 Kentucky in the annual Champions Classic.

The 6-foot-6 freshman impressed the nation in his first big test as Williamson finished with 28 points and seven rebounds on 11-for-13 shooting. Since Williamson hadn’t played legitimate college competition on the national stage before, many across the country tuned in to see if the Duke freshman would live up to the hype.

That included Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Kerr didn’t bring up Williamson directly by name — so he would avoid any kind of tampering fine. But it was easy to tell who Kerr was talking about with his effusive praise.

“I saw some kid on Duke last night who was pretty impressive,” Kerr said. “I probably can’t say anything more in mentioning his name. The one who is 285 [pounds]. I thought LeBron was a one-shot deal, but apparently, the next guy is coming. And before I get fined, I’m going to change the subject.”

Kerr was initially asked a question about Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo and opted to pivot to talking about Williamson — so he was clearly impressed by what he saw with the Duke freshman. Pleading with NBA commissioner Adam Silver not to fine him for talking about a college prospect, Kerr drew plenty of chuckles from the pool of reporters.

This isn’t the first time, or the last time, that Williamson is going to get compared to NBA greats like LeBron. But hearing it come from the mouth of a respected NBA championship head coach like Kerr is different than hearing it from a typical talking head.

(h/t: The Athletic’s Anthony Slater)

N.C. State commit Jalen Lecque considering jump straight to NBA

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Top N.C. State recruit Jalen Lecque will consider making the leap straight from high school to the NBA next spring.

In a report from ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, Lecque, who is currently doing a fifth year of high school at Brewster Academy, is weighing his basketball future as he begins an important final season of prep ball. A five-star prospect, and widely considered to be one of the best athletes in the national Class of 2019, Lecque is already drawing NBA scouts to see him play early this season.

“I am interested in everything because the NBA is my goal at the end of the day,” Lecque said to Givony. “I want to be a great college player, but my end goal is to help my family. I want to be a concrete Round 1 player if I do make that decision. If I’m guaranteed a Round 1 position, then you never know. I could see myself doing it if I am in a good position at the end of the year. A college education is so important and making that jump is really hard, so I really gotta think about that, but if I’m Round 1, then that’s different.”

As Givony notes in his report, since Lecque didn’t technically receive a high school diploma from Christ School, his previous stop, he will likely need to petition the NBA to enter the draft. That process involves submitting paperwork to the league office and declaring himself eligible for the draft by the early entry deadline of April 21. But since Lecque turns 19 during the calendar year of the draft, while also being a year removed from his original high school graduating class, that he would likely be allowed into the draft.

Regarded as the Rivals’ No. 28 overall prospect in the national Class of 2019, Lecque is N.C. State’s only commitment so far. While Lecque has a lot of positive tools to work with for his basketball future, including elite leaping ability and athleticism, he is still transitioning into attempting to play more on the ball. Lecque’s shaky perimeter jumper — he went 9-for-57 from three during Nike EYBL play this spring and summer — will also be something to monitor during his season at Brewster.

If Lecque can show scouts that his jumper is workable, then he could be an intriguing player during the NBA Draft process. Even if Lecque opts to test the NBA draft waters, he could always back out of the pro commitment and still go to the Wolfpack for his freshman season — similar to what Hamidou Diallo did before his freshman season at Kentucky.