Duke Beats UConn Despite Singler's Off-Night

NEW YORK -- Kyle Singler did not perform up to his lofty standards on the offensive end Friday night against No. 13 UConn, but in the end, it didn't matter.

Despite only six points from their leading scorer, the No. 7 Blue Devils built a nine-point halftime lead and maintained it in the final 20 minutes for a confidence-boosting 68-59 win in the NIT Season Tip-Off in Madison Square Garden against a Huskie squad that had looked impressive in demolishing LSU just two days earlier.

The Blue Devils made up for an off-night for Singler by relying on Jon Scheyer and a handful of other players to carry the scoring load. Nolan Smith contributed 16 points but went 5-of-22 from the field, yet Lance Thomas and Andre Dawkins both scored in double figures to keep Duke out in front.

Those scoring contributions would not have been enough if not for a strong rebounding display from the Duke forward line, though, and that group more than did its job. Senior Brian Zoubek scored just two points but grabbed 11 boards, Thomas added 10 rebounds as well and the Blue Devils outrebounded the tall and athletic Huskies by 13, giving the team’s perimeter players a chance to shine.

With Smith and Singler struggling from the field, however, Duke relied on Scheyer as it often does, and he played well enough to earn himself tournament MVP honors. The senior had 19 points, five rebounds and five assists against the Huskies, and most of those points came from open shots on the perimeter. On the other end, Connecticut’s guards were extremely quick with the ball—head coach Mike Krzyzewski called Kemba Walker “a jet” after the game—but Duke was able to force bad passes and difficult shots all evening.

Jerome Dyson led the Huskies in scoring with 15 points. But UConn had much the same problem Duke did with its primary scorer. Stanley Robinson was guarded by Singler for most of the game, and he was held to just 10 points on 5-of-12 shooting.

"[Kyle] was never in the rhythm of the game on offense,” Krzyzewski said. “But on defense he was on Robinson, and they kind of negated one another.”

The win gives Duke its second straight tournament title in Madison Square Garden, as well as a quality victory against the best team it will face before Christmas. This is the Blue Devils’ fourth Preseason NIT championship in six appearances in the event.


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