A late-game surge couldn’t save Duke tonight in its loss to Michigan State, by a score of 75-69. Duke led early, with a ten-point lead as late as six minutes into the game. Midway through the first half, though, momentum shifted to favor the Spartans and Duke just couldn’t catch up. Sophomore Matthew Hurt led with 21 points, followed by freshmen Jalen Johnson and Jaemyn Brakefield with 11 each. Brakefield was Duke’s best bench scorer. Michigan State’s highest scorer was Rocket Watts, who had 20 points.
The game wasn’t as close as the score would indicate. In the first half, Michigan State struggled early with fouls, and Duke took full advantage at the line. The scoring surge that put Michigan State ahead, though, was never reciprocated. While the margin was four at the half, in Michigan State’s favor, it grew to 15 within five minutes of play and the second half became a clawback effort for Duke. As a team, Duke shot 32.2% from the field compared to 42.3% on Michigan State’s side, with near-equal shot attempts. That was the biggest difference maker; the Blue Devils missed countless layups and misfired from distance (21.7% as a team with 23 attempts beyond the arc). Star scorer Jalen Johnson was 36.4% from the field compared to 100% against Coppin State on Saturday. The numbers speak for themselves.
Michigan State is an experienced team. They returned over half of their scoring from a year ago, and regained graduate senior Joshua Langford, who had a medical redshirt last year. This was a tough game for Duke going in, and the comeback effort is a positive sign in a very, very young team. Jordan Goldwire brought energy (and 2 steals) in the late second half off the bench, and the six-point end margin can be largely credited to his defense and final shot. The problem was consistency, on shooting, defensively, and with energy throughout the game. Fifteen minutes of this game were played very well tonight against a tough Tom Izzo team that played well. If Duke can get that number up, this season looks up from here.
A first loss puts the Blue Devils at 1-1 on the season. They’ll open the Mako Medical Classic, which honors Dr. Onye Akwari, this Friday at 7pm against Bellarmine University. The second game of the classic, against Elon, is in danger of cancellation after COVID-19 cases within the Elon program.