Duke and Michigan State met in the ACC/Big Ten challenge with two of the nation’s best recruiting classes.
Half of Duke’s was sidelined recovering from injuries, yet to see any game action this season, but all the Blue Devils needed was one.
Frank Jackson helped spur a second-half Duke run in its 78-69 win over the Spartans on Tuesday in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The teams were tied at 35 going into halftime, and Duke (7-1) shot just 2-of-11 from behind the arc at that point.
The majority of its points were in the paint, the only way they were readily available in the fast-paced matchup. The Blue Devils scored 38 points inside. Jackson sparked the Blue Devils on three straight possessions.
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“I know my teammates have all the confidence in the world in me,” he said. “I thought we wanted to come out strong in the second half. Second halves are always important to come out get going.”
Duke was limited in more ways than missing the freshmen. When Jackson got hot midway through the second half, he was whistled for his fourth foul with the Blue Devils leading 63-53. Shortly after, senior guard Matt Jones picked up his third and Amile Jefferson already had three.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski had only played six guys, with Chase Jeter coming off the bench. Jackson’s foul trouble put Jeter back in with less than 9 minutes to play and Michigan State fighting back. Krzyzewski said Jeter had one of his better games, with four points, four rebounds and a block in 21 minutes. His presence on the floor, coupled with more big play from Amile Jefferson, helped relieve some of the pressure off the guards.
“(Michigan State) was really good on offense,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s obvious they were trying to wear us out. We were worn out at the end. Our older guys know how to win when you’re tired.”
Sophomore guard Luke Kennard hit a triple from the wing to give Duke a 67-55 lead with 7:21 to play.
Duke has never lost a Challenge game at home and moved to an 11-2 series lead over Michigan State; the teams last met in the Final Four en route to Duke’s 2015 championship.
This time, the Blue Devils held MSU’s star freshman Mile Bridges, primarily guarded by Jones, to 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting. The forward missed two dunks attempting to add to his first-half points. He made one late in the second half, not enough to dent Duke’s double-digit lead.
Grayson Allen, who finished 5-of-11 from deep, led the game with 24 points, giving Duke a late boost even though he’s been out of practice. Jackson collected his eighth straight double-digit scoring game with 11 points.
Jefferson clinched another double-double of the season with 17 points and a game-best 13 rebounds.
Jones only had two points, but his defense was a major factor against Bridges.
Krzyzewski said the injured freshmen are coming along, Jayson Tatum even having a “good workout” earlier Tuesday. More than six players will be available when they are ready, but Krzyzewski doesn’t mind relying on his veterans, who strengthened the run Jackson ignited.
“We smelled ‘spurt,’” the coach joked. “And then Cameron gets going. It was led by our freshman. That was a key part of the game, there’s no question.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan