Bigger the game, the better Tyus Jones plays for Duke Blue Devils

Tyus Jones reacts after hitting the final shot of Duke's upset win at Virginia
Tyus Jones reacts after hitting the final shot of Duke's upset win at Virginia Chuck Liddy

One word seems to come up most often when describing Tyus Jones – even for his opponents.

“Tyus Jones, I thought was very good. He was very poised for a freshman,” Virginia guard Malcolm Brogdon said after Saturday’s game. “He made big shots, big plays, big assists.”

Poised is the adjective that followed Tyus Jones throughout high school and on the AAU trail. He had a knack for making plays when the stakes were highest, the lights at their brightest. And that has continued during his freshman year at Duke.

This season, Jones has started all 21 games, averaging 11.2 points, shooting 43.2 percent from the field and 36.9 percent from 3-point range. He has been at his best in Duke’s five games against ranked opponents – Michigan State, at Wisconsin, at Louisville, at Notre Dame and at Virginia: 16 points per game, a 54.8 percent mark from the field and 43.8 percent from deep.

And if Duke’s two other marquee games are included – against the defending national champions, Connecticut, in the Meadowlands and against St John’s in Madison Square Garden as Mike Krzyzewski went for win No. 1,000 – Jones’ averages are similarly elevated. In those seven games, he is shooting 51.6 percent overall,40.7 percent from 3-point range and averaging 17.6 points.

It’s hard to pick Jones’ biggest shot of the year. Against Michigan State, he completed a four-point play with Jahlil Okafor on the bench with foul trouble, which put Duke ahead 64-51 with about eight minutes left in the game. At Wisconsin, the coaches told him to be more aggressive looking for his shot in the second half, and he responded with 14 points in the final 20 minutes.

And then there’s what Jones did Saturday at Virginia.

With the Cavaliers up by 11, 45-34, with just under 10 minutes remaining in the game, Jones hit a 3 to break Duke’s 0-for-9 shooting streak from deep. That set off a 6-for-8 Blue Devils’ run from deep to end the game.

“They were ready to lower the boom on us, and I thought that kept us in the game,” Krzyzewski said.

And then there was the final basket of the game – with the shot clock winding down and 11 seconds left on the clock, Jones nailed a 3 over London Perrantes. That gave Duke a 6-point lead, crushing any Cavaliers’ comeback hopes.

After the game, the Internet was buzzing with a potential new nickname: Tyus Stones. After years relying on one word – poised – and given Jones’ performances this year, maybe it’s time for an update.