Duke can add Chase Jeter to this year’s list of injuries, as the sophomore went down six minutes into the Blue Devils’ 78-68 Hall of Fame Tip Off victory over Penn State Saturday.
The 6-foot-10, 210-pound forward-center came down under Penn State’s basket with 13:58 left in the first half. He squirmed in pain while holding his left ankle and was helped off the floor, not returning and immediately being replaced by sophomore Antonio Vrankovic.
Whether Jeter will play in Sunday’s Naismith bracket championship game against the winner of the Cincinnati-Rhode Island game is uncertain – but the crash didn’t look good, despite Jeter lightly warming up before the second half.
“He was walking, but he can’t push off it it,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I know if he can play, he’ll play. Right now, I would say doubtful.”
Krzyzewski went deeper into his bench and later brought in freshman Javin DeLaurier.
After halftime, when Duke led 36-24, the Blue Devils (3-1) went small by having sixth man Frank Jackson in with the four other starters.
“Unfortunately, we’ve seen this situation before when guys go down,” Duke senior guard Matt Jones said. “We know what we’re capable of.”
Jackson, a freshman point guard, led the game with 11 points off the bench at halftime. He finished with a team-high 17, the second time this season he’s led Duke in scoring. Duke finished with 19 total bench points with Vrankovic’s two free throws, while the Nittany Lions (2-2) had five, none at the break. They relied on a trio of freshman starters, as they’d done so far to start the season.
“I think they’re going to be really good, that’s why I think it’s a big win for us,” Krzyzewski said. “It was a heckuva win for us, I mean, a huge character win. We’re banged up more than any team I’ve ever coached, before the game and during. Amile (Jefferson) has been hurt this week, he has 15 rebounds and 16 points. Matt played the last two ball games most of the second half with four fouls.”
The Blue Devils maintained a double-digit lead in the second half, except when Penn State’s mini-run late brought its deficit to 72-64, with junior guard Shep Garner’s 3-pointer forcing a Duke timeout. Five Duke players finished scoring in double-figures, and 10 of Jefferson’s 15 boards came on the defensive end. Grayson Allen (12 points) added eight defensive rebounds.
Jackson finished with his fourth straight double-digit game. He was 6-of-14 with two 3-pointers.
It wasn’t all long distance for Jackson, who drove around defenders to finish with his left hand with 15:54 left to play. He rebounded from one of two airballs by cleaning up a Jefferson miss inside. Jackson came from the corner to make the play, giving Duke a 53-36 lead with 14:12 left.
Having experience on the floor late helped to fend off Penn State.
“The veteran play in these two kids saved us,” Krzyzewski said of Jefferson (four blocks) and Jones (15 points). “Penn State is a real athletic team, especially in the second half. When they see we’re struggling with numbers, they just kept pushing the ball down the court. We had enough good defensive exchanges to stop.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan