Duke and Michigan State offered an early 1-vs-2 gem featuring a preseason All-American, a star-laden freshman class and a senior adding another big moment to a career that includes winning a national championship.
Spartans coach Tom Izzo was left hoping it wasn’t the only time his team might see the Blue Devils this year.
“We deserved what we got, they deserved what they got,” Izzo told reporters after Tuesday’s 88-81 loss in the Champions Classic in Chicago. “Do I think we’ll get better? Do I think we’ll get a chance to play them again? I sure as hell hope so.”
The 42nd meeting of the top two teams since 1949 headlined the past week’s AP Top 25 schedule, part of a heavyweight doubleheader that also included No. 4 Kansas’ 65-61 win against No. 7 Kentucky.
Michigan State star sophomore Miles Bridges — the leading vote-getter on The Associated Press preseason All-America team — finished with 19 points. But Izzo lamented his team’s performance on the boards, a 46-34 Duke edge that led to 17 second-chance points and prompted Izzo to describe it as a “smashmouth” characteristic of past Michigan State teams.
As for Duke, the Blue Devils had several takeaways. Freshman guard Trevon Duval (17 points, 10 assists, six steals) shined in his first marquee game. And senior Grayson Allen’s career-best 37 points more than made up for the loss of top rookie Marvin Bagley III to a first-half eye injury.
In fact, Allen’s play was a throwback to his freshman year, when Quinn Cook was the vital senior alongside a touted rookie class featuring three one-and-dones. That team beat Izzo’s Spartans in the Champions Classic then again in the Final Four on the way to winning the 2015 NCAA title — part of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s 12-1 record against Michigan State.
“It’s an honor to play against Tom’s program,” Krzyzewski said. “They bring out the best in you.”
THE “OTHER” BIG ONE: Kansas coach Bill Self considered his team’s performance against Kentucky “a great grind-it-out win.” That win came despite shooting 35 percent, though some of that can be attributed to the Jayhawks managing 18 offensive rebounds and 20 second-chance points.
As for Kentucky, John Calipari’s bunch led by the latest crop of star freshmen hung in after a couple of shaky home performances that included rallying from nine down at halftime to beat Utah Valley and holding off Vermont.
“I’m trying to get them to think less and play more,” Calipari said, “and just worry about competing.”
CENTURY MARKS: Fifth-ranked Villanova and eighth-ranked Florida both cracked the century mark — twice.
The Wildcats beat Nicholls 113-77 and Lafayette 104-57 . The Gators beat Gardner-Webb 116-74 then beat North Florida 108-68 to take plenty of momentum into Sunday’s game against New Hampshire, though they won that one just 70-63 on Sunday.
COMINGS AND GOINGS: Turns out, Joel Berry II didn’t much time with a preseason hand injury for reigning champion North Carolina.
The bad news? Pittsburgh graduate transfer Cameron Johnson will.
Berry, the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, made his season debut in Wednesday’s win against Bucknell. He didn’t play in the season opener after breaking a bone in his right hand when he punched a door after losing a video game against teammate Theo Pinson and a student manager.
Johnson, however, is expected to miss 4-6 weeks after having surgery Wednesday to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Johnson was hurt in Monday’s practice after sitting out the opener with a sprained neck as a precaution.
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