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Duke men's basketball returns home to host William & Mary, Appalachian State during Thanksgiving break

<p>Head coach Mike Krzyzewski said junior Grayson Allen was playing at about 50 percent last weekend.&nbsp;</p>

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski said junior Grayson Allen was playing at about 50 percent last weekend. 

With Duke coming off the busiest and most challenging stretch of its nonconference schedule, the Blue Devils now return to Durham looking to stay hungry with two Thanksgiving break games.

Despite a loss to then-No. 7 Kansas at the Champions Classic last Tuesday, No. 6 Duke added a pair of wins to its ledger this past weekend in Uncasville, Conn., and will host William & Mary at 7 p.m. Wednesday and Appalachian State at noon Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium. After an ankle injury limited sophomore forward Chase Jeter's minutes against Penn State and then-No. 21 Rhode Island, the Blue Devils almost exclusively utilized a smaller five-man rotation—Sunday's starters each registered at least 33 minutes in both games.

Duke's lack of post depth set the stage for forward Amile Jefferson to register a pair of double-doubles as the Blue Devils collected the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off title—the graduate student combined for 33 points and 30 rebounds in the two games.

If the Blue Devils want to continue their winning ways ahead of a critical matchup with No. 24 Michigan State next week, it will most likely be up to Jefferson and the other Duke veterans. There have been no signs of an impending return for the injured five-star freshman trio of Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden.

"I think the biggest thing is we have unbelievable inner toughness, and it starts with Coach. When he tells us that he needs us and it’s ‘Next man up,’ we believe that," Jefferson said after Sunday's game. "That lights something inside of us. I tell our team all the time that we’re going to be as strong as our bond.... It’s really makes you proud to go to battle for guys who have your back and won’t give in on that court."

Hampered by a pair of lower body injuries, junior Grayson Allen has struggled to find a groove in the early portion of the Blue Devils' season, shooting just 34.4 percent from the field.

But sophomore Luke Kennard has effectively taken over as Duke's primary scorer and also proven himself to be a strong distributor. The 6-foot-6 guard knocked down seven of his 13 3-point attempts during the weekend tournament and currently leads the Blue Devils (4-1) with 18.2 points and 3.6 assists per game.

Kennard and freshman Frank Jackson could take on even more of a workload if Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski elects to try to get Allen some rest this week.

"[Kennard] is really good," Kryzewski said "If he’s on the court, he’s going to be good and it’s on him. Luke is one of the better players. When we’re healthy we’re going to have a lot of good players, but right now we have…a lot fewer."

In stark contrast to its opponent, the Tribe (2-1) use a deep rotation, as 10 different players have averaged double-digit minutes through William & Mary's first three contests. After a 30-plus-point drubbing at the hands of Louisville in its second game, the Tribe responded Saturday with a resounding 89-59 victory against Presbyterian.

Sharpshooting guard Daniel Dixon tallied 20 points against the Blue Hose, hitting five 3-pointers and knocking down 7-of-15 shots. The 6-foot-6 senior leads William & Mary with 12.7 points per game, but is just one of three averaging 10 or more points per game—part of a balanced Tribe offensive attack.

Redshirt junior David Cohn is William & Mary's primary ballhandler and has dished out 21 assists so far—including nine against Presbyterian despite registering six points in 31 minutes.

Where the Tribe is lacking, however, is in the post. Although William & Mary has a number of big men, the Cardinals dominated the battle of the paint last week, outscoring the Tribe 46-22 down low and winning the rebound battle by seven.

For a shorthanded Blue Devil side, gang rebounding and an all-around team effort will be key come Wednesday evening and going forward.

Like William & Mary, Appalachian State (1-2) will likely try to use a deep guard-heavy rotation to wear down a banged-up Duke team and make the game surprisingly close. The Mountaineers have dropped games to Davidson and Tennessee early in the year, and will have to improve defensively after allowing 189 points in those two losses to check Kennard and company. 

"When we’re with each other out on the court, we believe in each other and we need everybody to give 110 percent," Kennard said. "You might be hurting, you might be a little tired but we have that heart, we have that toughness. We believe that each one of us is going to give that to our teammates."

Brian Pollack contributed reporting.

Mitchell Gladstone | Sports Managing Editor

Twitter: @mpgladstone13

A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak." 


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