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Did Duke's Joey Baker play against Kansas? The box score says yes, the facts say no

Joey Baker was listed as playing in the first half against Kansas.
Joey Baker was listed as playing in the first half against Kansas.

NEW YORK—After a seven-month break, college basketball made its triumphant return Tuesday night, but it seems like the offseason left everybody involved in the sport feeling rusty.

The official scorer of the Duke-Kansas matchup at Madison Square Garden is among those still shaking off the cobwebs.

The showdown between the fourth-ranked Blue Devils and the third-ranked Jayhawks was high-pressure for a season opener, amping up the nerves for everybody in the building returning to game action. The two teams combined for 44 turnovers, freshmen such as Duke's Wendell Moore often looked shaky and the official scorer made at least two errors.

The first clue came when I glanced at the printed box score postgame, which showed that Blue Devil head coach Mike Krzyzewski used a 10-man rotation, inserting sophomore forward Joey Baker into the contest for less than a minute. I'll admit, at first I didn't trust my eyes—after all, the early season rust applies to me also—and assumed that Baker did enter the game.

So, as any good sleuth would do, I headed to the GoDuke.com box score's play-by-play to see when Baker supposedly played. Apparently, the Fayetteville, N.C., native came onto the floor for 19 glorious seconds midway through the first half, before exiting with 11:43 remaining and never seeing the floor again.

However, what actually happened with 12 minutes left in the first half indicates that Baker never played against the Jayhawks, unless his spirit inhabited the bodies of teammates Jordan Goldwire, Cassius Stanley, Alex O'Connell, Matthew Hurt or Vernon Carey Jr.

We all know what happened here: the official scorer mistook O'Connell or Hurt for Baker, giving Baker credit for a phantom appearance.

The official scorer's regrettable evening did not end there. As SportsChannel8 and WRALSportsFan's Ben Swain pointed out, O'Connell clearly misses a free throw with two minutes left in the first half, but the junior sharpshooter is credited for making both of his attempts from the free throw line.

A common saying in sports is that statistics don't tell the whole story, but during the Duke-Kansas game Tuesday night, they simply told the wrong story.

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