Frank Jackson had a reason for dolefully walking off the court in New York on Tuesday night.
Against Kansas, the freshman went scoreless in the first half of not only Duke’s first real test of the season, but one of his own.
In the second half, he hit two big outside shots down the stretch, before a sold-out crowd in Madison Square Garden.
The 6-3, 205-pound young point guard dropped the game-tying 3-pointer with 16 seconds left. When Kansas senior Frank Mason III hit the game-winner only seconds later, it was easy to see why the freshman was crushed.
“I thought he played like a freshman the first half. It’s a pretty big environment against a great backcourt,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said, praising the work of Mason and Devonte’ Graham. “(Jackson) came in and made the adjustment in the second half.”
Aside from the late baskets, Jackson attacked the rim when he saw fit. He drew Kansas star freshman Josh Jackson, forcing him into his fourth foul, before he eventually fouling out.
Jackson’s night in Manhattan came a day after he was named ACC freshman of the week. As the sixth man, Jackson is third on the team with 16.7 points a game behind returners Grayson Allen (17.7), last year’s leading scorer for the Blue Devils, and Luke Kennard (17.3). Jackson shot 13-of-25 (.520) his opening week of Duke basketball and scored a team-high 18 points against Marist in his college debut.
Jackson played 30 minutes in the 77-75 loss to Kansas and converted a four-point play late in the second half.
He gained experience other stars in the freshman class have yet to gather due to injuries. Forward Harry Giles is recovering from knee surgery and did not play in any preseason action. Forward Jayson Tatum sprained his foot in practice, and center Marques Bolden suffered a lower-leg injury at some point after he appeared in Duke’s first exhibition game.
It’s just a matter of getting that level of experience.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski
Coming into Duke (2-1), two of those guys were ranked ahead of Jackson, but now, Jackson has forced himself toward the top of the conversation regarding Duke freshmen.
There’s no estimated return for the sidelined trio, while Jackson has through the first three games of the year averaged 26.7 minutes, as many as graduate student and starting forward Amile Jefferson.
“Frank’s gonna be a really good player,” Krzyzewski said. “He has been very good in the second half. It’s just a matter of getting that level of experience.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan
Duke vs. Penn State
When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Mogehan Sun Stadium, Uncasville, Conn.