Las Vegas, NV – The last time Duke and UNLV faced off in basketball, the Blue Devils pulled off a huge upset knocking off the undefeated defending National Champions in the 1991 Final Four. Coach K even had his team watch the game on the plane since none of his players were alive when it took place. “We wanted to let them know that they were coming into a game where we’re playing against a very proud opponent that has accomplished a lot; It was an honor to come here” said Krzyzewski. For the first time in 25 years, these two programs faced each other in the first ever college basketball game at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. There are lots of attractions in Vegas but the Blue Devils put on a masterful show in front of 19,107 fans and thoroughly dominated the Rebels 94-45. Duke shot 59 percent from the floor and took advantage of 21 Rebel turnovers to turn the highly anticipated game into a rout.
Grayson Allen led the way with 34 points on 12-of-16 shooting including 6-of-9 from 3 point range and a pair of highlight reel dunks that brought the capacity crowd to its feet. Allen looked every bit the part of the guy picked as the Preseason Player of the Year. He had been battling a toe injury all year that had prevented him from fully participating in practice. Coach K said that yesterday was the first time in the last five weeks that he was healthy enough to practice. He sure looked healthy on Saturday night. Allen attacked the hoop relentlessly and displayed the athleticism that had been missing so far this season. UNLV kept going under screens against him and he made them pay by hitting consistently from long range.
Luke Kennard came into the game leading the Blue Devils in scoring (20.4 ppg) and finished with 16. His great footwork and ability to read defenses makes him a very efficient scorer. He moves extremely well off the ball, stays within himself and just makes winning plays. 6-9 senior Amile Jefferson recorded a double-double chipping in 10 points, 12 rebounds and had five assists. Freshman Jason Tatum was the 4th player in double figures for Duke as he notched 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and a pair of blocked shots. Tatum, playing in just his 3rd game, flashed the ability to do a little bit of everything. He knocked down jumpers, off the dribble and off the catch. He showed an excellent crossover dribble and attacked the rim using great explosiveness and length. He also scored in the post. He looks every bit the top prospect he was expected to be. Freshman guard Frank Jackson scored nine and was very quick and explosive attacking the basket including a two- handed put back dunk.
Overall, Duke was very sharp and executed beautifully all night long. They spaced the floor well and took care of the ball. They moved the ball well and made great, crisp passes which led to good looks all night long. The same could not be said about UNLV. They committed 21 turnovers and had just six assists, only one in the 2nd half. To Duke’s credit, they were very aggressive defensively, denying everything and the constant ball pressure was a factor leading to many of those turnovers. 1st year coach Marvin Menzies was disappointed that the Rebels did not put forth their best effort. He called this Duke team “one of the best teams that I’ve seen in a long time in college basketball”. Despite the lopsided loss, he was very confident that his group would keep improving and be a better team heading into conference play. He did say that they executed well at times, but not consistently enough. They did get a lot of clean looks at the basket but did not convert, shooting under 30 percent for the game.
The lone bright spot for the Rebels was point guard Jaylen Poyser. The 6-4 guard was the only UNLV player in double figures with 16 points. He is an athletic player that can shoot it well from the perimeter. He knocked down 4-of-8 shots from downtown. Coach Menzies called him a point guard in training and thinks he is only going to get better going forward. They are going to have to put it behind them quickly with upcoming games against Kansas and Oregon on the schedule. Duke only has two games over the next three weeks and Coach K emphasized that it will allow his team to get healthier and more reps playing together in practice. He was most pleased with the team being passionate about playing and that was why they performed so well tonight. Coach K also noted that heralded freshman Harry Giles practiced yesterday and is very close to making his debut.
This article was written by Joe Trabucco, a correspondent and scout for NetScouts Basketball. You can subscribe to our RSS feed from the upper right corner of our home page, follow us on Facebook, or on twitter.
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