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Monday’s Things To Know: Duke-Auburn headlines Maui, Mississippi State loses and Justin Coleman shines for Arizona

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1. WE GET DUKE-AUBURN IN THE MAUI SEMIFINALS!

The first of two top ten matchups in the Maui Invitational will be played in the semifinals on Tuesday, as the top-seeded Duke Blue Devils will face off with No. 8 Auburn in a game that could end up turning into college basketball’s version of what happened between the Rams and the Chiefs on Monday night.

Duke, as we know, is insanely talented and is built to run up and down the floor unlike any team that we’ve ever seen. Auburn, though, has plenty of weapons offensively and also is effective enough defensively that it could cause some disruption for the young Blue Devils.

It’s the first must-see game of a Maui Invitational that is strong even by its own lofty standards. If Gonzaga can get past Arizona on the other side of the bracket, there will be a monster championship game Wednesday.

2. ARIZONA STATE HANDED MISSISSIPPI STATE THEIR FIRST LOSS OF THE SEASON

It looked as though the Bulldogs might stave off their first loss the season when Nick Weatherspoon tied things up with under a minute to play, but Arizona State got a 3-pointer from Kimani Lawrence in response to give the Sun Devils a 72-67 vicotry at the MGM Main Event in Las Vegas.

Lawrence scored 22 points to lead Arizona State to its upset of the 15th-ranked Bulldogs.

Arizona State has another undefeated start to the season at 4-0 after beginning last year with 12-straight wins. Sure, they lost six of their last seven to end the year, but that start was still something. They’ve got a date with Utah State on Wednesday for the championship.

For Mississippi State, the 3-point shooting continues to be an early-season issue. The Bulldogs were 8 of 30 (26.7 percent) against Arizona State and are now shooting 27.5 percent from distance for the season, which ranks outside the top-300 natioanlly.

3. IS JUSTIN COLEMAN THE CLOSER THAT ARIZONA NEEDS?

The big question with Arizona heading into this season was whether or not they still had enough talent on their roster to compete at the level Wildcat fans have become accustomed to. That’s what happens when you lose five starters and your recruiting class goes up in smoke.

But there may be an answer to Sean Miller’s prayers, and his name, on Monday night, was Justin Coleman. The 5-foot-10 transfer from Samford by way of Alabama entered the game having scored a grand total of 18 points through the first three games of the season. Against Iowa State in the Maui Invitational opener, Coleman finished with 18 points, scoring 15 in the second half and just about single-handedly leading the Wildcats back from a double-digit deficit in the final seven minutes.

I’m not saying that Coleman is the answer, but in Arizona’s toughest game of the season to date, he is the one that stepped up and made essentially every single big play.

It was a terrific performance. Let’s see where Arizona can build from here.

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)

Tuesday’s Things to Know: Duke and Florida State roll, Garrison Brooks shows out

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The 2018-19 college basketball season officially began Tuesday night with a slate headlined by the Champions Classic in Indianapolis. No. 4 Duke absolutely demolished No. 2 Kentucky in the nightcap, with top-ranked Kansas holding off No. 10 Michigan State in the first game of the night. Below are three things you need to know about Tuesday’s action.

1. DUKE MADE A MAJOR STATEMENT

No. 4 Duke’s matchup with No. 2 Kentucky was supposed to be the game of the night. Instead we ended up watching the basketball version of Ivan Drago vs. Apollo Creed, as the Blue Devils rolled to a 118-84 victory in what is the largest margin of defeat for a John Calipari-coached team (that includes his stints at UMass and Memphis). Freshmen R.J. Barrett (33 points, six assists, four rebounds), Zion Williamson (28 points, seven rebounds) and Cam Reddish (22 points) combined to score 83 points, with classmate Tre Jones dishing out a team-high seven assists.

Duke shot 54.4 percent from the field on the night, and Kentucky looked overwhelmed outside of freshman guard Keldon Johnson (23 points) and senior forward Reid Travis (22 points, seven rebounds). While top-ranked Kansas managed to open its season with a win, don’t be surprised if some voters put Duke atop their rankings ahead of Monday’s new polls. And they wouldn’t be wrong to do that either, because the Blue Devils looked that good.

2. KANSAS LOOKED EVERY BIT AS GOOD AS WE EXPECTED

It’s going to fly all the way under the radar because, you know, Duke actually is the Golden State Warriors, but the No. 1 Jayhawks looked like the No. 1 team in the country on Tuesday night. Despite the fact that Dedric Lawson, their best player, had one of those nights where he seemingly couldn’t get a single shot to drop, the Jayhawks still managed to take control and keep control in a 92-87 win over No. 10 Michigan State. It wasn’t until the final minutes that the Spartans, who resorted to ‘Hack-a-Doke’ down the stretch, made things interesting, and even then, they never actually had the ball with the lead down to a single possession.

Duke is going to deservedly be the No. 1 team in the country when the polls come out on Monday, but that doesn’t mean Kansas is anything less than what they were advertised as.

3. PLAYING WITHOUT PHIL COFER, NO. 17 FLORIDA STATE WHIPPED FLORIDA

Someone on staff made the bold prediction Monday that Florida could be the currently unranked team that gets to the Final Four. The Gators looked nothing like that kind of team Tuesday night, and a lot of credit for that should go to Florida State. Playing without senior forward Phil Cofer, the Seminoles beat the Gators by an 81-60 final score in a game that was nowhere near as close as the final margin would lead one to believe. Leonard Hamilton’s squad shot nearly 48 percent from the field, made 11 three-pointers and limited Florida to 37.0 percent shooting.

P.J. Savoy led three double-digit scorers with 20 points, and Trent Forrest played well with 13 points and a team-high five assists. Once Cofer returns, Florida State could be even better than anticipated…and many held this team in high regard even before Tuesday’s win. As for Florida, the biggest concern has to be the play of senior guard KeVaughn Allen. In 23 minutes of action Allen was scoreless, missing all four of his field goal attempts. Consistency has been an issue throughout his career, but unlike last year’s team Florida does not have much margin for error in that regard. Jalen Hudson (11 points on 3-for-10 shooting) wasn’t great either, but he at least produced something. Florida really needs Allen to be at his best consistently if they’re to hold their own in an improved SEC this season.

4. GARRISON BROOKS STEPS UP IN NO. 8 NORTH CAROLINA’S WIN AT WOFFORD

North Carolina, a team expected to contend in the ACC and nationally, boasts one of the nation’s best players in senior forward Luke Maye. But while much of the “who else will contribute in the front court” conversation has been focused on five-star freshman Nassir Little, another option stepped forward in North Carolina’s 78-67 win at Wofford. Sophomore Garrison Brooks played extremely well for the Tar Heels, shooting 9-for-15 from the field and finishing with 20 points and five rebounds in 25 minutes. That contribution, along with the 24 and seven boards from Maye and Cameron Johnson’s 17 points, was enough to propel North Carolina past a Wofford team whose best scorer (Fletcher Magee) struggled from the field.

The point total represents a new career high for Brooks, who scored 14 in his collegiate debut against Northern Iowa last season. The key for the 6-foot-9 sophomore is to build on his standout performance, something he’ll have a chance to do when North Carolina takes on Elon Friday night.