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Duke basketball 2014-15 player review: Matt Jones

Matt Jones

Season Breakdown: With a tight eight-man rotation after the dismissal of guard Rasheed Sulaimon and the departure of forward Semi Ojeleye, Matt Jones’ role became apparent. For the DeSoto, Texas, native, the second half of the 2014-15 season offered a crucial opportunity to give Duke the defensive consistency it lacked early in the season. Jones became the Blue Devils' consummate glue guy and lockdown defender, knocking down clutch 3-pointers when called upon and allowing Duke to play the small lineup that won it its fifth national championship.

In addition to tripling his playing time this season, Jones also tripled his scoring, recording 6.2 points per game. Jones’ value to his team was illustrated by his performance in the team’s Elite Eight victory against Gonzaga, in which he notched 16 points, three rebounds and three steals.

Jones’ stout defense was put to the test against the Wisconsin Badgers in the national title game, as he was matched up against 6-foot-9 Sam Dekker and 6-foot-8 Nigel Hayes. But as he did throughout the latter part of the season—when Duke won 18 of its last 19 games—Jones stepped up and delivered with the rest of the Blue Devil guards to slow down the nation's most efficient offense. Duke's defensive surge in the NCAA tournament propelled it to the title and Jones' consistency and intensity anchored the run.

Results relative to expectations: With talented players like Justise Winslow, Rasheed Sulaimon and Grayson Allen on the wing and Quinn Cook playing off the ball, many would have doubted before the season that Jones would be a starter on a national championship team. But that's exactly what happened, as the 6-foot-5 guard stepped up and filled the void after Sulaimon's dismissal. Feb. 7 against Notre Dame, Jones erupted just like he did in the Elite Eight for 17 points, and from then on, he became a fixture in the lineup.

Jones' stat line will never explain how important he was to holding the Blue Devils' eight-man rotation, but the soft-spoken sophomore definitely exceeded expectations in his second season in Durham after making just four starts as a freshman. Look for Jones to continue improving and excelling on the defensive end as Duke adjusts to life without ACC Player of the Year Jahlil Okafor.

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