Spartans, Blue Devils square off Tuesday in Champions Classic
Duke appears ready for its first true test of the season after blowing out its first two opponents.
The same can’t be said about Michigan State, which got all it could handle before narrowly winning its season opener.
The No. 4 Blue Devils go for a fourth consecutive win over the No. 19 Spartans as these powerhouse programs square off Tuesday night in the first game of the Champions Classic in Indianapolis.
"That setting will be a Final Four setting," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose team plays before No. 1 Kentucky and No. 5 Kansas meet in the nightcap. "All four of them are potential, along with about 20 others, of being a Final Four team so that will be a great setting for this squad to be in this early."
Duke (2-0) is set to play its third game in a five-day span after easily getting by Fairfield 109-59 on Saturday. Preseason All-American Jahlil Okafor had 17 points after scoring 19 the night before in a 113-44 rout of Presbyterian.
Fellow freshman Justise Winslow is averaging 16.5 points while senior Quinn Cook has scored 15.5 per game. The Blue Devils have recorded 52 assists while shooting 62.6 percent.
"One of our main things is sharing the ball," said Okafor, who’s gone a combined 17 of 20 from the field. "Everybody’s eating right now."
The Blue Devils are 8-1 against Michigan State under Krzyzewski after taking the last three meetings, including a 71-61 victory in the regional semifinals of the 2013 NCAA tournament. Duke also won 74-69 at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15, 2011, in the first Champions Classic.
The Spartans (1-0) are off to a bit of a rocky start after holding on to win 64-59 at Navy on Friday. Michigan State nearly blew a 13-point lead in the second half after committing 15 turnovers to the Midshipmen’s 10.
"We just weren’t very good as a team," coach Tom Izzo said. "I blame myself. It’s my job to get them ready to play and I just don’t think we did the things that we needed to do to be successful."
Senior Travis Trice scored a career-high 25 points and Branden Dawson added 12, but they were the only Spartans to reach double figures. Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes finished with five points apiece while shooting a combined 3 for 18.
"It’s not about me right now. It’s about the team," said Trice, who averaged 7.3 points last season. "We’ve got to figure out what we’re doing wrong. That’s not how we want to play."
Michigan State is 2-1 in the Champions Classic after beating No. 1 Kentucky 78-74 last Nov. 12. Adreian Payne and Gary Harris – both of whom were lost to the NBA – combined for 35 points while Dawson added eight and nine rebounds.
"It’s the best teams in the last 10 years, and we’re still included as one of them," Izzo said. "I’m looking at this as our chance to take another step forward in a long season. It’s a great way to start off college basketball.
"Duke has been dominating. They’re playing 10 different guys – nine are McDonald’s All-Americans. They’ve got maybe as good a recruiting class as there’s been in recent years. You put that together with guys like Cook and (Rasheed) Sulaimon, it’s a pretty imposing group."
Michigan State hasn’t defeated the Blue Devils since a 78-68 win in the regional semifinals of the 2005 NCAA tournament.