BACK ON TRACK: No. 9 Duke men's basketball escapes No. 18 Michigan State in Champions Classic showdown

Freshman guard Caleb Foster led Duke in scoring Tuesday night with 18 points.
Freshman guard Caleb Foster led Duke in scoring Tuesday night with 18 points.

CHICAGO—In their first test of the season Friday, the Blue Devils faltered at home. On Tuesday night, they aced the retake on the road.

No. 9 Duke secured its first top-25 win of the season at the Champions Classic, working its way through an early offensive drought and holding off a second-half comeback effort to defeat No. 18 Michigan State 74-65. Four Blue Devils scored in double digits as a balanced effort led head coach Jon Scheyer’s team to an important win inside the United Center ahead of a three-game homestand.

“We stepped up in a big way. We wanted to play this schedule … play Arizona, Michigan State two of your first three games, let’s see where we’re at,” Scheyer said. “And I’ve learned more about this team in the first three games than maybe any team I’ve been with.”

Freshman guard Caleb Foster was something of a revelation for Duke (2-1) as it defended its lead late. The Harrisburg, N.C., native scored a team-high and career-high 18 points overall (4-of-5 from distance), including back-to-back 3-pointers in the closing minutes to put the Blue Devils up 68-56 and stop the Spartan comeback in its tracks.

Sophomore center Kyle Filipowski, who scored 25 points in both of Duke’s first two games, continued his torrid start with 15 points and eight rebounds. Senior captain Jeremy Roach (seven points, five assists) and sophomores Tyrese Proctor (13 points, six rebounds, six assists) and Mark Mitchell (13 points) also did their part as the Blue Devils picked up their first win against Michigan State since March 2022.

“My mindset was just be ready when coach called my name,” Foster said. “Before the game, my teammates and my coaches were just telling me to be ready. And I feel like I’ve worked hard for this moment, this is a moment I’ve dreamed of.”

Down 31-20 at the halfway point and struggling for any offense, Michigan State (1-2) handily won the opening minutes of the second half. Thanks to seven quick points by graduate forward Malik Hall, the Spartans trailed just 35-31 at the first stoppage before the Blue Devils wrestled back control.

On the Michigan State side, Hall and Tyson Walker powered the Spartans’ offense. Walker made three 3-pointers in as many minutes to cut Duke’s lead to 51-48 and force a timeout. The graduate guard scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half and nearly recaptured the lead for the Spartans on multiple occasions.

Hall set a season-high with 18 points and paced the Spartans during a quiet first half for Walker. Junior guard Jaden Akins added 11 points alongside Walker in the backcourt.

It took time for the scoring to truly begin Tuesday as the two high-powered offenses entered the first media timeout with Michigan State leading 3-2. Both teams scored on their first possessions, but that was the last change until the Spartans finally broke the drought at 14:57 with a transition bucket by freshman guard Jeremy Fears Jr. Duke’s own drought lasted 5:57 from Filipowski’s opening score to his next layup with 13:19 left in the half.

Duke took its first lead on a free throw by graduate center Ryan Young with 7:13 left in the first half, and from there, it hardly looked back. Proctor and Mitchell helped the Blue Devils overcome 10 first-half turnovers and surge to a 31-20 lead at the break. The Spartans shot just 29% in the opening frame while committing nine turnovers of their own.

Mitchell played an outsized role in Duke’s 12-2 run to close the half. The Sunrise Christian product shot just 1-of-2 from the field but 7-of-7 from the free-throw line for a game-high nine points in the first 20 minutes. He led the Blue Devils to a clear advantage at the stripe: The Spartans missed both of their first-half attempts and ultimately trailed 24-7 in this department by night’s end.

“Walker, he hit some tough shots, man … His ability to shoot off bounce, shoot contested shots, but to me the biggest key is they get fouled a lot,” Scheyer said. “So playing them without fouling was a big thing for tonight and then protecting our paint, and overall we did that.”

Notably, Hall started things off for the Spartans with a 3-pointer from the wing, splashing cold water on Michigan State’s 2-for-31 start to the season from distance. It took the Spartans just six attempts and less than 10 minutes of clock to reach that total, but the cold shooting curse continued throughout the night: Head coach Tom Izzo’s squad shot just 2-of-13 from deep in the first half and 6-of-19 for the game.

With the win, the Blue Devils rebounded from a 78-73 home loss to then-No. 12 Arizona that dropped them seven spots in the AP Poll. Duke also moves to 8-5 in the annual Champions Classic and 15-4 all-time against Michigan State.

Duke next returns home for a Friday evening matchup against Bucknell and will not travel again until a Nov. 29 contest at No. 14 Arkansas. 

“To respond that quickly in a couple of days,” Scheyer said, “I just think says a lot about the character.”

Jonathan Levitan

Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


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