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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.

Donations surge for Nathan Bain’s family after buzzer-beating layup to beat No. 1 Duke

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Stephen F. Austin senior Nathan Bain entered sports lore on Tuesday night when his buzzer-beating layup was the difference in a stunning overtime win over No. 1 Duke.

Bain raced to get the game-winning bucket out of his hands just in time to give the Lumberjacks one of the biggest upsets in college basketball over the past few decades. Bain’s poetic final play is going to be shown again-and-again for years to come.

Following the emotional win, Bain joined the broadcast. Much of America found out for the first time that Bain’s family lost nearly everything when Hurricane Dorian hit The Bahamas on Sept. 1.

Stephen F. Austin Compliance previously set up an official GoFundMe page set up to help Bain’s family. The NCAA has approved this since it’s being run through the school’s compliance department.

From the fundraiser page:

On September 1, 2019, Hurricane Dorian made landfall in The Bahamas as a category five storm. Among the almost 400,000 individuals affected by one of the most catastrophic natural disasters recorded in history was the family of SFA men’s basketball senior Nate Bain. Not only did the Bain family see nearly everything of value destroyed by Hurricane Dorian, Bain’s father- a minister- watched as his church suffered extreme damage from the storm as well.

In an effort to assist the Bain family’s recovery from the worst natural disaster in the country’s history, SFA Athletics is accepting donations of all dollar amounts which will be sent directly to Bain’s family.

Once Bain’s story and fundraiser became known, donations skyrocketed from $2,008 raised before it shot to over $5,600 as of this writing $60,000, and still climbing. It shows the kind of impact a big moment can have in raising awareness to a cause. This only adds to the legend of the moment for Bain and Stephen F. Austin.

No. 1 Duke stunned by Stephen F. Austin with buzzer-beating layup (video)

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Stephen F. Austin stunned the sports world on Tuesday night with an overtime buzzer-beating layup to beat No. 1 Duke, 85-83, at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Favored by 27.5 points in some places before tip, the Blue Devils suffered their first home non-conference loss since falling to St. John’s in 2000.

Nathan Bain raced for an uncontested layup that fell as the buzzer sounded, giving the Lumberjacks one of the biggest regular-season upsets of the last 20 years in college basketball.

This is the third time the No. 1 team has lost already this season. And we haven’t even reached Thanksgiving yet.

Duke losing in the most dramatic way possible at home to a four-touchdown underdog is an incredible storyline. Bain’s layup was the exact type of play that kids practice on the driveway growing up when nobody else can shoot with you. It’s a memorable highlight, called flawlessly by Eric Collins, that will be shown in basketball montages for years to come.

The Blue Devils falling at home — similar to how previous No. 1 Kentucky lost at home to unranked Evansville a few weeks back — is the latest stunning upset to hit the sport this season. Duke’s loss is also yet another indication that college basketball might not have a dominant team this season.

It’s fair to point out that early-season polls are far from an exact science. The typical bluebloods, however, are showcasing plenty of flaws early in the season in losing to mid-major teams at home. There’s a lot of youth being counted on for teams like the Blue Devils and Wildcats that has been inconsistent the first month of the season.

For Duke on Tuesday night, the Blue Devils played mediocre defensively, didn’t shoot particularly well from the perimeter and also had issues with 20 turnovers. Stephen F. Austin was able to get high-scoring senior wing Kevon Harris rolling as he finished with 26 points.

There is still plenty of time for Duke, Kentucky, or any team in college basketball to get markedly better and look like complete national championship contenders by the time we reach March. But it seems as though many of the top teams have a long way to go to reach the standards we’ve come to expect from some of the top programs in college basketball.

Based on how the first month of the season has gone, Louisville should be very weary as the new likely No. 1 team next week.

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.”