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Beyond the arc: Veterans and newbies alike propel Duke men's basketball to win against Michigan State

Sophomore point guard Tre Jones poured in 20 points and 12 assists Tuesday—and against Cassius Winston, no less.
Sophomore point guard Tre Jones poured in 20 points and 12 assists Tuesday—and against Cassius Winston, no less.

Duke finally got its revenge on Michigan State with a commanding 87-75 victory on the road Tuesday night. The unexpected dominance in the Blue Devils' first true road test gives us plenty to talk about, from tipoff to the final buzzer. So, the Blue Zone gives you three key takeaways and three statistics from Tuesday's win:

Three key takeaways:

1. Double-double machines

Duke’s stars so far this season, sophomore point guard Tre Jones and freshman center Vernon Carey Jr., continued their dominance tonight on all corners of the floor. Jones held down the backcourt with a phenomenal 20-points,12-assist performance. His facilitating was as sharp as ever, which allowed for plenty of buckets for his teammates when the defense collapsed on him. Under the rim, Carey continued to impress, with 26 points and 11 rebounds, marking his seventh straight double-double. The Florida native had some colossal shoes to fill after Zion Williamson’s spectacular season, but he has since silenced the doubters with his repeated 20-plus point performances. These two players each showcase an unstoppable skillset. The ability to have a star at the top and bottom of the key will be an asset for Duke down the road.

2. Javin takes no prisoners

Javin DeLaurier may be a team captain, but has season averages haven’t exactly reflected his status. He currently sits at 3.6 points per game and 4.4 rebounds per game, which is respectable given his measly 13.3 minutes per game. Tonight, however, was a different story. 

DeLaurier was subbed in early in the first half with revenge on his mind. He put up 10 points on perfect 5-for-5 shooting, including multiple electrifying dunks. On top of that, he contributed six rebounds—with three on both ends of the court. Two steals, one block and an assist later, DeLaurier finished the game with his best performance of the season. This game gave Blue Devil fans a glimpse of peak Javin, which they can only hope to see more of as the season unfolds.

3. Defense steals the show

Duke’s defense returned in glorious fashion tonight. The previous two games—one in particular—have been closer than they should have been, given Duke’s defensive talent. However, with the spotlights on full blast and a roaring Spartan crowd, the Blue Devils played to the occasion. Right out of the gate, the on-ball defense was relentless, forcing seven blocks and six steals in the first half. There was apparently nothing the Spartans could do to get to the hoop, and they ended that half with just 29 points to Duke’s 45. The Blue Devils have relied on defense heavily this season, especially when their offense fails. When the two are working in unison, Duke is a well-oiled machine that is capable of bringing down any top-25 team.

Three key stats:

Five players in double digits

This win over the Spartans was not a feat carried out by one or two men; it was a full team effort. Fueling the fire for Duke were reliable weapons Carey, Jones and Matthew Hurt. However, picking up the remaining slack were two unassuming heroes in DeLaurier and Joey Baker, neither of whom start nor average close to 10 points on the season. Duke’s ability to bring threats off of the bench will be crucial to its success in games against high-caliber opponents like Michigan State.

46.7 percent from deep

This year’s roster of Blue Devils isn’t known for its distance shooting. Often times, it is inefficient, and continuing firing from deep seems futile. On the flip side, tonight showed what Duke can look like when the shots are dropping. A noteworthy departure from its season-average 35.2 percent, the Blue Devils shot 7-for-15 from three, demoralizing the Spartans time and time again. To add insult to injury, Michigan State shot just 4-for-16 from long range.

Cassius Winston held to 4-for-14

Michigan State is a team with many threats, but no threat is greater than that of senior point guard Cassius Winston. When head coach Mike Krzyzewski closes his eyes at night, he still probably sees Winston burying one of his 20 points that ended Duke’s 2019 NCAA tournament run. Fortunately, that was not going to be the case in the revenge game. Right out of the gate, Winston was locked down and even when he could get a shot off, they refused to fall, as he shot 4-for-14 from the field. Essentially rendering Winston useless for the majority of the game, Duke was able to take advantage and put away the Spartans for good.

Looking forward

Duke’s next game will be at Virginia Tech Friday and will be another winnable test. The Hokies were riding high as of Nov. 25 when they upset Michigan State but have since dropped two straight games to Dayton and BYU. Although Duke just put away the Spartans as well, Virginia Tech will be a worthy opponent and one that should not be taken lightly.

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