Duke, UConn play today
By Jim O’Connell
NEW YORK ó The matchup New York wanted is the matchup New York gets today in the finals of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden.
At 5 p.m., No. 7 Duke faces No. 13 Connecticut.
“A championship here would mean a lot because this is like a Final Four or a Sweet 16 because you play two games in three days against two good teams,” Duke’s Jon Scheyer said. “We’ll be ready and so will they.”
While UConn had no trouble thrashing LSU 81-55 in the first semifinal on Wednesday, Duke just didn’t look itself in a building where the Blue Devils have been so impressive so often.
The Blue Devils were tied with Arizona State with 13 minutes left in the second semifinal of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
But then Kyle Singler, who uncharacteristically missed eight of his first nine shots, made his second straight to give Duke the lead for good and the Blue Devils turned up the defensive intensity in a 19-3 run that led to a 64-53 victory over the Sun Devils.
“I could have played more aggressively and that’s what I do,” said Singler, who finished 5 of 16 from the field and had 13 points. “Being aggressive is what I do and that gets easy baskets.”
Scheyer had 16 points and six assists, and he was the one who found Singler for the two field goals that tied the game and put the Blue Devils ahead for good.
“I don’t think looking for him any more than usual and I’m always looking for him when he’s open,” Scheyer said. “Crunch time is always Kyle’s time and those were two big shots for us.”
Nolan Smith had 14 points for Duke (5-0), which led by only four at halftime.
The Sun Devils (4-1), who managed to stay close behind their patient offense and pesky zone defense, tied it at 43 on two free throws by Derek Glasser with 13:11 to play only to see Duke break it open with the deciding run.
“I thought defensively after the first 5 minutes was the key to the ballgame,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “And Singler, who was not having a good shooting night, after that timeout in the second half he came out and hit those two buckets right away. It’s nice if you’re 9 for 12 but when you’re whatever he was, when the score is tied, that’s very good.”
Singler’s second straight field goal gave Duke the lead for good at 45-43. After Scheyer scored in the lane, Singler hit his only 3-pointer to make it 50-43. Rihards Kuksiks’ three-point play slowed the run some but the Blue Devils were back at it behind some suddenly effective defense that allowed Arizona State just that one field goal over a 10-minute span.
“I thought their defensive effort, especially in the second half, was terrific,” Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said. “Nothing came easy for us. Everything was challenged.”
The victory allowed Duke to extend some impressive streaks. This was its 11th straight win in this tournament as the Blue Devils swept to the title in 2000 and 2005. They also won the inaugural tournament in 1985.
This was Duke’s fourth straight win at Madison Square Garden and the 11th in its last 12 games in the building. It also was the Blue Devils’ 21st straight win in November, a streak that dates to a 2006 loss to Marquette.
Scheyer hit a 3 as he was falling in front of the Arizona State bench to give the Blue Devils a 34-30 lead with 4.8 seconds left in the first half.
Scheyer committed his first turnover of the season 8:02 into the game. The senior guard entered with 21 assists and no turnovers in 131 minutes over the first four games.
Scheyer had a big smile on his face when the first turnover was brought up.
“Everybody looked at me when it happened,” he said. “I just wish it could have happened on a cool pass, not stepping on the line. It’s something that just happened but I’m blaming everybody on the team because they started talking about the streak after last game.”
ANAHEIM, Calif. ó B.J. Holmes and Texas A&M passed their first test.
Holmes scored 20 points and Texas A&M (4-0) upset No. 19 Clemson 69-60 on Thursday in the first round of the 76 Classic.
Trevor Booker scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half for Clemson (4-1).
“Texas A&M led by as many as 17 early in the second half before Clemson pulled to 58-56 when Tanner Smith made two free throws with 5:14 remaining. Smith finished with 14 points.
A free throw and then Holmes’ 3-pointer gave the Aggies some breathing room and Clemson could never recover.
“It was quite a physical ball game,” Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell said. “I give Texas A&M a lot of credit. They came out with a lot of physical toughness and really guarded us pretty well.”Before the season started, the Aggies were picked to finish fifth in the coaches’ preseason Big 12 poll. By beating Clemson, the team may have taken steps to get noticed nationally, but A&M head coach Mark Turgeon cautioned that it was just one game.
WVU 82, Long Beach 65
ANAHEIM, Calif. ó Casey Mitchell scored a career-high 18 points and No. 8 West Virginia routed Long Beach State 85-62 on Thursday in the first round of the 76 Classic.
No. 15 Michigan 83, Creighton 76, OT
ORLANDO, Fla. ó Manny Harris had 20 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds to lead Michigan over Creighton at the Old Spice Classic.