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Clemson knocks off No. 3 Duke

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First, Clemson wins its first-ever game in Chapel Hill. Now, just a couple days later, they’ve got a win against the state of North Carolina’s other monster program, Duke.

The Tigers defeated third-ranked Duke, 79-72, at home Tuesday night to deliver one heck of a follow-up to Saturday’s win against North Carolina.

Clemson shot 56.6 percent from the floor and 42.9 percent from 3-point range. Aamir Simms scored 25 points and added nine rebounds while Tevin Mack had 22 points and nine rebounds.

This dup of wins for Brad Brownell, whose program has gone to just two NCAA tournaments (albeit a Sweet 16 appearance in 2018) in his nine season. The North Carolina win doesn’t do a lot for an NCAA tournament resume, but flipping it forward to a win against Duke certainly does. Still, a non-conference slate whose highlight was an overtime win on a neutral floor against TCU means the Tigers have a lot of work to do, though the last two weeks is a nice start and there are Quad I wins to be had in the ACC.

Duke, which was just dubbed as the sport’s lone elite team by our Rob Dauster, saw its nine-game winning streak snapped with just its second setback of the season, with the first being the wild Stephen F. Austin defeat in November. The Blue Devils had mostly steamrolled their way through their first five ACC opponents, but fell behind early to Clemson and were unable to wrangle back the lead and some separation the rest of the night.

The Blue Devils shot 50 percent from the floor for the game (53.6 percent in the second half) while getting 17 points, five rebounds and four assists from Tre Jones and another 20 points and seven rebounds from Vernon Carey, but it wasn’t enough to hold off the upset-minded Tigers. Despite the loss to a Clemson team that has been largely mediocre this season, there’s probably little to take from this game to worry about going forward for the Blue Devils. Clemson got hot from 3, and Duke’s turnover issue negated its own hot-shooting. If anything, it’s those giveaways that Duke really needs to clean up in its pursuit for the No. 1 overall seed.

The loss also steals a little bit of luster from Duke’s Saturday showdown with No. 11 Louisville.

POSTERIZED: Clemson’s John Newman III drops hammer on Duke

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Sure, Clemson winning at North Carolina for the first time ever, stopping a 59-game losing streak, was something.

But lighting the Internet on fire with a monster dunks, too, is something.

John Newman III is making history out here.

The Clemson 6-foot-5 sophomore absolutely unloaded on Duke and Javin DeLaurier on Tuesday night with a hammer.

Maybe Clemson gets the North Carolina-Duke back-to-back. Either way, Newman has this.

Tre Jones scores 23, No. 2 Duke routs Wake Forest 90-59

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DURHAM, N.C. — Tre Jones scored 23 points to help No. 2 Duke handle Wake Forest 90-59 on Saturday night.

Cassius Stanley added 16 points for the Blue Devils (15-1, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who shot 53% from the field.

Duke scored on eight of its first nine possessions to take control early. The Blue Devils pulled away with a 27-12 run in which they scored on 13 of 15 possessions while making 11 of 12 shots. Duke led 49-23 at halftime after shooting 63%, including 6 of 10 from 3-point range.

Joey Baker and Jack White scored 11 points each, and Jordan Goldwire had 10 points for the Blue Devils.

Torry Johnson and Olivier Sarr scored 13 points apiece to lead Wake Forest (8-7, 1-4). Sharone Wright Jr. added a season-high 11 points for the Demon Deacons.

Brandon Childress, Wake Forest’s leading scorer at 16 points a game, went scoreless and missed all six shots.

Duke won its 900th game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, more wins than any other college team has at its current venue.

The Blue Devils beat Wake Forest for the 11th consecutive time and 21st straight at home.

BIG PICTURE

Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons have enough problems at Duke when they’re at full strength. They have lost 21 consecutive road games against the Blue Devils since Tim Duncan’s senior season in 1997. Without second-leading scorer Chaundee Brown, who missed his second consecutive game with an injury, Wake Forest couldn’t keep pace.

Duke: The Blue Devils are rolling and remain the favorite to win the watered-down ACC. Since their 150-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents ended against Stephen F. Austin on Nov. 26, they have won all 10 of their games by at least nine points.

UP NEXT

Wake Forest: Hosts Virginia Tech on Tuesday night, starting a stretch in which it plays three of four at home.

Duke: Play at Clemson on Tuesday night. The Tigers won at North Carolina for the first time in program history earlier Saturday.

Hurt, Jones help No. 2 Duke beat Boston College 88-49 in ACC

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DURHAM, N.C. — Duke had Tre Jones back healthy at the point and freshman Matthew Hurt rolling with a confident stroke. Just the way the second-ranked Blue Devils wanted to dive into the bulk of the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule.

Hurt scored 20 of his season-high 25 points before halftime to help Duke beat Boston College 88-49 on Tuesday night, while Jones had 10 assists in his return from a foot injury that had cost him two games.

Hurt made 10 of 16 shots and was 5 of 10 on 3-pointers to lead the Blue Devils, who shot nearly 52% and hit their last five shots of the first half as they blew the game open shortly before the break. Duke (12-1, 2-0 ACC) also had little trouble clamping down with its defensive pressure.

“They played like they practiced,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said, “so that’s a neat thing if you practice well.”

Jones had missed the past two games with what was described as a mild sprain of his left foot. Krzyzewski had said before the Wofford win on Dec. 19 that the sophomore would’ve likely played had it been an ACC game.

Well, now that’s all that’s in front of the Blue Devils: 18 straight league games as part of the ACC’s first 20-game conference slate.

CJ Felder scored 13 points for the Eagles (8-6, 2-1), who had won four straight games coming in to Cameron Indoor Stadium. But they never mounted much of a response to Duke’s defensive pressure that turned away driving lanes and forced BC to settle for tough looks.

BC shot just 34% and made 3 of 18 3-pointers, including a six-minute stretch in the first half without a basket that helped Duke stretch out its lead.

“We did a really poor job today of keeping the floor spaced and then making plays for other people,” BC coach Jim Christian said. “We tried to do way too much finishing plays, and they did a great job recovering and blocking shots or forcing us to miss. … We needed to move the ball better, the whole game really. So it was real big problem for us the whole night.”

BIG PICTURE

Boston College: BC fell to Duke for the 13th time in 14 meetings and is 0-11 all-time in Cameron.

Duke: Jones’ return was the biggest positive for a team that needs his on-floor leadership and on-ball defensive pressure.

“Early on there was definitely some rust, just not being able to be in a game for a few weeks,” Jones said, adding: “After the first few minutes of getting my feet back under me and everything, I felt good the rest of the game.”

BACK AGAIN

It was a rough return for Derryck Thornton, who spent his freshman year at Duke before transferring to USC and ultimately ending up at BC as a graduate transfer. He was averaging a team-best 13.8 points but finished with six on 3-for-12 shooting while also leaving briefly in the first half with a right leg injury.

“Nobody on the team played very well,” Christian said. “It’s not about Derryck Thornton or anybody else.”

BIG FINISH

Hurt and the Blue Devils closed out the half in a flurry, ending when Jones found Hurt alone in the corner to bury a 3 just before the halftime horn. By that point, Hurt — who held his release to mark the make — had matched his season-high scoring output and outscored BC as Duke led 45-19 at the break.

“I made a third 3, I felt really good, and then the fourth 3 right before halftime, that really set it off,” Hurt said. “I just want to win, so I just tried to go in the second half and try to make the right plays and just try to win especially.”

TIP-INS

Duke earned its 300th victory of the decade (dating to January 2010) and its 899th all-time victory at its famously hostile home arena. … Duke has held opponents to fewer than 50 points in consecutive games for the first time since December 2010. … BC senior forward Nik Popovic (11.8 points) missed his fifth straight game. He is out indefinitely with a back problem. … Duke hit a season-high 12 of 28 3s (.429).

UP NEXT

Boston College: The Eagles host No. 19 Virginia next Tuesday.

Duke: The Blue Devils visit Miami on Saturday night.

Vernon Carey Jr., Tre Jones dominate as No. 10 Duke earns blowout road win at No. 11 Michigan State

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Duke avenged last season’s Elite Eight exit by taking down No. 11 Michigan State, 87-75, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for an impressive non-conference road win.

A week after losing at home to Stephen F. Austin, one of college basketball’s biggest upsets of the last two decades, the No. 10 Blue Devils (8-1) clamped down on defense in the first half while establishing dominant performances from freshman big man Vernon Carey Jr. and sophomore point guard Tre Jones.

Posting his seventh consecutive double-double, Carey finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds and three blocks looking completely dominant against an overmatched Spartans interior defense. Michigan State made the decision not to double Carey on post touches and the freshman made the Spartans pay. Finishing through contact and making quick-and-decisive moves in the post, Carey simply could not be stopped — particularly when Michigan State big man Xavier Tillman wasn’t defending him.

Defensively, Carey continues to make strides while looking worlds better than he did during high school. Uncommitted to that end of the floor at times in his prep career, this version of Carey has established himself as a solid back-line defender who can erase some shots and even draw charges. Carey’s improved defense was a big reason why Duke established its early double-digit cushion and never let off the gas.

The overall performance and general consistency of Carey means he’s not only establishing himself as Duke’s go-to player, but he’s also putting his name firmly in the mix for All-American honors and potentially more. Carey still has to make strides on ball-screen defense and improve on the 57 percent free-throw shooting. It’s also nearly impossible to complain about what he just did to one of the better defensive teams in the country. Had it not been for what appeared to be second-half leg cramps (he returned to the game by the end) then Carey might have easily gone for 30.

Jones, relatively quiet in last season’s NCAA tournament matchup between the two teams, elevated his play to a new level on Tuesday as well. The sophomore finished with 20 points, 12 assists and three steals. Defensively solid as usual, particularly on Michigan State senior Cassius Winston, Jones looked like one of the nation’s best two-way point guards with the way he played in the Breslin Center. When Duke built its comfortable cushion by halftime, Jones deftly alternated between caretaker and catalyst depending on what the situation called for (that bounce pass in traffic to Vernon Carey was nasty).

This is the type of Jones game Duke fans were hoping for before this season. Scoring wasn’t necessary from Jones last season when Duke had so much offensive firepower from the trio of Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish. Now that Duke isn’t getting consistent early play from Matthew Hurt (10 points), and Cassius Stanley is out with a minor injury, Jones needed to step up his offensive role for Duke to beat elite teams on the road.

If Carey and Jones can play near this level every night then it makes Duke the preseason title contender everyone believed they would be before the Stephen F. Austin loss. It’s still a long season and ACC conference play has barely started. Duke getting this type of game from its stars in a bounceback road win is huge.

Playing without Stanley, who is missing time after suffering an injury in Friday’s Duke win over Winthrop, the Blue Devils have to feel much better about the performance of role players once Carey established his dominance and Jones manned the ship.

Senior Javin DeLaurier played with flashes of confidence like his former self with 10 points and six rebounds off the bench. DeLaurier and forward Jack White both gave great effort on the interior defensively by consistently falling up and making Michigan State’s guards finish over length. Sophomore Joey Baker added 11 points. On the wing, Baker has been a pleasant surprise scorer for the Blue Devils with Stanley missing from the rotation the past two games.

It was easy to get down on Duke a week ago with the loss to Stephen F. Austin. We also need to remember that Duke has already earned neutral-court wins over Kansas and Georgetown while impressively dismantling Michigan State in their building. Don’t count out Duke if Carey and Jones are rolling.

Michigan State (5-3) clearly has work to do as their brutal early-season schedule continues to make life difficult. The Spartans have now lost to Kentucky at the Champions Classic, Virginia Tech at Maui and this uninspiring effort at home against Duke.

Winston (12 points, seven assists, 4-for-14 shooting) was sluggish on Tuesday as he was harassed by Jones and thwarted by a much-improved Duke interior defense. Xavier Tillman paced Michigan State with 20 points and eight rebounds as he looked like the only consistent offensive option.

Aaron Henry was virtually a non-factor. The Spartans also struggled to 4-for-16 three-point shooting. Even if this loss was jarring, and three losses by this point in the season is unexpected for the preseason No. 1 team, there is still so much time left to play this season.

Michigan State has to address its interior defense and get more consistent help for Winston. It’s likely the Spartans will be able to pile up Big Ten wins but they haven’t shown an ability to beat top-flight opponents except for a win at Seton Hall. There’s still plenty of chances for Michigan State to earn wins over top teams. This loss just shows how far they are from a potential peak.

Three Things to Know: Stephen F. Austin stuns Duke at buzzer; Michigan State outlasts Anthony Edwards

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A full day of college basketball continued on Tuesday night with the Maui Invitational and Legends Classic among the marquee attractions.

But it was a massive upset in dramatic fashion that had the sports world talking as No. 1 Duke was stunned with its first home loss to a non-conference team since 2000.

1. Stephen F. Austin stuns No. 1 Duke on buzzer-beating layup

The play, the upset, the loss we’ll all be talking about for quite some time. The Lumberjacks stunned the No. 1 Blue Devils with an overtime win on Tuesday night as Nathan Bain raced down Cameron Indoor Stadium and released his uncontested layup just before time expired.

This is the third time the No. 1 team has lost this season — the second time that No. 1 has fallen to an unranked mid-major at home. More on this one here as Bain’s moment and Stephen F. Austin’s win is one of the biggest upsets in college basketball in the past 20 years.

2. No. 3 Michigan State outlasts Anthony Edwards, Georgia

Afternoon consolation hoops at the Maui Invitational saw No. 3 Michigan State build a 28 point lead before Anthony Edwards nearly single-handedly brought Georgia back with his second-half performance. Edwards scored 33 of his 37 points in the second half, putting on one of the more memorable stretches of play at the Maui Invitational.

Despite all of that, the Spartans held on for the win as Cassius Winston had another outstanding game. I have more on this game, with some of Edwards’ ridiculous highlights.

3. No. 4 Kansas, Dayton advance to Maui Invitational finals with wins

The championship of the Maui Invitational is set for Wednesday night as No. 4 Kansas and Dayton both won in the semifinals to set up the unexpected clash.

Continuing their impressive national showcase, the Flyers ousted Virginia Tech with an impressive 89-62 win. Sophomore forward Obi Toppin paced Dayton with 24 points as he continues to draw national attention.

Toppin and the Flyers get a major test in the No. 4 Jayhawks after they took down BYU. Kansas and Dayton is the unlikely Maui final that could deliver some interesting subplots.

Toppin is drawing considerable NBA buzz this week. Seeing him battle the Jayhawks’ massive frontline of Udoka Azubuike and David McCormack should be a lot of fun.