Returning to Madison Square Garden after a tough loss to Kansas last month, No. 5 Duke took the floor in Tuesday night’s Jimmy V Classic against No. 21 Florida in need of a statement win in its last big game before the start of conference play.
Luke Kennard, Amile Jefferson and Jayson Tatum delivered that statement as the Blue Devils outclassed the Gators, 84-74. On a night when Grayson Allen and Frank Jackson combined to shoot 3-for-14 for nine points, Kennard scored 29 and shot 5-for-7 from three-point range to lead Duke (9-1). Jefferson was all over the court with 24 points and 15 rebounds, and Tatum scored 22 off the bench.
“Luke’s played fantastic,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who moved to 29-10 in his career at the Garden. “He got 29 points on 16 shots . . . He’s come through for us, beautifully. We’re starting to put it together a little bit.”
Krzyzewski lamented that injuries have put the Blue Devils into something more like “October mode,” limiting practice time for key players — and that was even before Jefferson and Tatum spent time away for funerals, Jefferson for his grandmother and Tatum for his great-grandmother. Tatum, a freshman, was in only his second college game Tuesday and shot 7-for-12 in 29 minutes with eight rebounds and a pair of steals.
“Luke kind of took the game over, and all our guys went to him, and then Jayson had a thing going,” Krzyzewski said. “We had one time when I called something for Amile and Amile said, ‘Go to him.’ That’s the kind of kids I have, and he made a better decision than I did, because I should’ve kept going to him.”
Kennard, whose shot-making in the first half kept Florida from building an early lead as the Blue Devils got off to a sluggish start, buried the dagger in the second half. His three-pointer off a slick passing sequence with 14:30 left gave Duke its largest lead of the game at 53-39, and Florida got no closer than seven the rest of the way.
In the evening’s first game, Isaac Haas and Vincent Edwards scored 16 points apiece to lead 18th-ranked Purdue to a 97-64 win over Arizona State that was not as close as the score indicated, after which Sun Devils coach Bobby Hurley lambasted his team.
“I was so proud and excited when we were offered the opportunity to play here, just because of the energy and what [Jim Valvano] represented,” Hurley said. “It’s unfortunate that our team didn’t even come close to the energy that Jimmy had in his life — his passion. We had no passion. We did a disservice to this game and this event and what he represented, the strength that he had, the love of living and passion for life.”