No. 5 Duke (7-1) left the door open for an upset at Cameron Indoor Stadium, but Michigan State (4-4) simply could not capitalize, falling on the road 78-69.
The Spartans hung tough with the heavy favorite Blue Devils in the first half, largely because of the slow start from Grayson Allen. The player of the year candidate was hobbled with a sore toe and nearly missed the game. He shot only 2-10 in the first half and was completely out of rhythm. The game was tied at 35 going into the break.
Duke started to pull away midway through the second half, ripping off an 11-0 run to extend their lead to 59-48. Allen regained his shooting touch and burned the Spartans from long range. But Duke’s main weakness, their short bench, nearly came back to haunt them. Big man Amile Jefferson picked up his third foul early in the second half and guard Frank Jackson picked up his fourth midway through the second. The Blue Devils only played six players, with freshmen Harry Giles, Marques Bolden and Jayson Tatum all out.
Turnovers plagued the Spartans, as they have been all season. Every time MSU looked like they were going to make a run, a string of turnovers stalled any momentum they had. MSU finished with 18 turnovers. Too many times the Spartans ended possessions without a single shot, killing their comeback chances. Duke put up 11 more shots than MSU as a result.
Jefferson torched the Spartans down low, just as MSU’s opponents have been doing all season. He posted his fourth double-double in his last five games, finishing with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Second-chance points were dominated by Duke 22-4, yet another area the Spartans have struggled in.
The game saw 12 ties and nine lead changes, mostly in the first half and the beginning of the second. Duke took the lead four minutes into the second half and never looked back.
Allen led all scorers with 24 points on an inefficient 7-21 shooting. MSU actually outshot Duke 49 percent to 45 percent and out-rebounded the Blue Devils 39-33. But turnovers, turnovers and more turnovers were just too much for the Spartans to overcome.
Kenny Goins had a surprisingly good game for MSU, considering his awful cold streak. He had been held scoreless in three of his last four games, but scored 10 points against Duke, including a nice jumper from near three-point range and an emphatic dunk that quieted the Cameron Crazies. The Spartans need his energy to stay up like that to have a chance in the paint.
ESPN analyst Jay Williams called Eron Harris Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde because of his inconsistency, and he is spot on. In a big game like this, the Spartans really needed him to step up and take some of the scoring burden off of Miles Bridges’ shoulders. He did not do that on Tuesday. The senior only mustered 14 points and three rebounds in one of the biggest games of the season. He needs to establish himself as the go-to scorer, and he hasn’t done that yet.
Bridges look frustrated throughout the entire game, similar to his Kentucky performance. He missed several huge dunks and got into foul trouble. The freshman phenom eventually fouled out, finishing with 11 points on 4-13 shooting and nine rebounds.
Coach K is now 10-1 against Tom Izzo. Even more impressive, Duke hasn’t lost a non-conference game at home since 200o, when they were defeated by St. John’s 83-82.
The nasty part of the schedule is finally over. Up next for the Spartans is a bit of a reprieve, with a much needed five-game homestand coming up, starting with Oral Roberts on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 4:30 p.m.