UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski says he’ll have a lot of good players once his team gets healthy.
He has a few right now.
Luke Kennard scored 24 points to lead top-ranked Blue Devils to the championship of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament with a 75-65 win Sunday over No. 21 Rhode Island.
The sophomore guard made eight of his 11 shots from the floor, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range for the Blue Devils (4-1), who never trailed. Amile Jefferson added 17 points and 15 rebounds, his second consecutive double-double in the tournament.
“We have unbelievable toughness,” Jefferson said. “When (coach) tells us he needs us and it’s next man up, we believe that.”
Jared Terrell led Rhode Island (4-1) with 22 points and Martin Hassan added 15. Duke’s defense held Rams star E.C. Matthews to nine points, more than 10 below his season average.
Duke led by eight points at halftime and quickly stretched that to 39-26 early in the second half, capping a 14-2 run with a 3-pointer by Kennard. The Blue Devils were up by as many as 18 points in the second half and led 70-52 before Rhode Island used a pressing defense to close the gap late in the game.
Duke’s Chase Jeter, who left Saturday’s game against Penn State with what at the time appeared to be a serious left ankle injury, checked in midway through the first half, but quickly picked up two fouls and was forced back to the bench. The 6-foot-10 sophomore played just eight minutes and did not score.
The Blue Devils starting five each played more than 30 minutes because of the myriad injuries suffered by the team this season. Matt Jones finished with 13 points, freshman Frank Jackson had 11 and Grayson Allen added 10, two of them on a driving layup late in the first half that gave him his 1,000th career point.
Duke: The Blue Devils showed they are still a formidable team even without their three injured freshmen — Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden — and junior Sean Obi. Krzyzewski said Allen played at about 50 percent of his ability after the right foot injury he suffered in last week’s loss to Kansas; Jeter played despite leaving the Penn State game, and Jefferson played hurt this weekend.
“When we’re healthy we’re going to have a lot of good players,” Krzyzewski said. “Right now, we have a lot fewer.”
Rhode Island: The Rams showed Saturday that they can play with the nation’s better teams, beating No. 24 Cincinnati 76-71 , but they must learn how to compete against teams at Duke’s level. They fell to 0-4 all-time against the Blue Devils and are 15-97 all-time against ranked opposition.
“I think we were caught up in the moment a little bit,” coach Danny Hurley said. “We tried to do a little too much individually. But we were still there.”
Duke, which lost to Kansas on Tuesday, should stay near the top of the Top 25 with the tournament championship.
Rhode Island may remain ranked despite the loss on the strength of its win Saturday against the Bearcats.
STAT OF THE GAME
Neither team shot well from 3-point range. Duke missed its first eight shots from distance and players other than Kennard were just 2 of 16 from behind the arc. But the Blue Devils used their stifling perimeter defense to hold Rhode Island to just three 3-pointers on 11 attempts. The Blue Devil’s opponents are shooting under 20 percent (17 of 86) from 3-point range this season.
When Duke came to the interview room Sunday, Krzyzewski was asked about the conversation he had after the game “with Mr. Hurley.”
“Which one?” Krzyzewski asked.
Danny Hurley is the coach at URI. His father, Hall of Fame high school coach Bob Hurley Sr., was in attendance at the Mohegan Sun this weekend. And, of course, Bobby Hurley, now the coach at Arizona State, played for Krzyzewski at Duke.
“I’ve known Bob Sr. for over three decades,” Krzyzewski said. “And his wife. The Hurleys are part of our family. So is Danny, we love them. I’m not sure there’s a better coach in the history of the game (than Bob Sr.). He gave me the honor of presenting him into the Naismith Hall of Fame. We’re that close and we’re always pulling for them.” Well, except for on Sunday.
Duke: The Blue Devils head home for games with William & Mary on Wednesday, Appalachian State on Saturday and an ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup with Michigan State on Nov. 29.
Rhode Island: The Rams are off until Friday when they host Belmont.
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