The depleted Duke Blue Devils knew they’d be in for a tough challenge at the Champions Classic facing off against Kansas. In the end the Jayhawks proved to be too much as they used a second half surge and a buzzer beater to win a thriller 77-75.
Duke made a valiant effort to tie the game with 15.5 seconds to go, but a second half run by Frank Mason concluded with him making a contested 16 footer over Matt Jones to end it for the Jayhawks.
“It was one big shot, another big shot, and then a huge shot to win it,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. “What do you expect form the Garden and something like this.”
Krzyzewski continued, “Mason made a big time play. It was well guarded. He just made a big time play.”
That moment of sheer dejection clouded an otherwise very game effort from the Blue Devils.
Duke trailed for nearly all of the second half, but Luke Kennard, Frank Jackson, and Grayson Allen put the Blue Devils on their collective backs as the second half comeback was completed.
Kennard especially was tremendous for the Blue Devils. He led Duke with 22 points on 7-10 shooting, including 2-4 from three.
Also he had the drive and kick to Frank Jackson for the game tying three, but in the end it wasn’t enough.
About Kennard’s performance, Krzyzewski said, “He had a really good game tonight. He’s played well in every practice. He is a really good player. We expected him to be real good. I wouldn’t say he has overachieved because he is a big time player. Big time players show up even bigger in these environments.”
Leading up the furious Duke run the final four minutes, it was a Kansas dominated second half.
The Jayhawks built a double digit lead in the half, and led nearly the entire way after Duke built a 34-29 halftime lead.
It was freshman Josh Jackson who was the biggest culprit as his personal run in the second half was something that Duke simply couldn’t handle. The 6-foot-7 freshman was tremendous on defense as well as offense, and his energy and athleticism had the Jayhawks firmly ahead.
For Kansas coach Bill Self, he thought the stretch Jackson had showed what he could become and changed the game.
“I thought Josh was great,” said Self. “He was bar far the best player in the game at the start of the second half. He’s a heck of a talent and certainly he put us on his back for a period of time.”
In fact when Josh Jackson fouled out that seemed to stem the tide and help Duke rally.
While the loss came hard there were some things to build upon for the Blue Devils. Amile Jefferson finished with 12 points, and Chase Jeter was solid against the Kansas frontline with seven points and four rebounds.
Given that Duke was up against it from a numbers standpoint it was a good effort. Duke is now 2-1 on the season, and will take on Penn State on Saturday.