Tre Jones, No. 4 Duke Hang On to Beat No. 3 Kansas in 2019 Champions Classic

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistNovember 6, 2019

Duke guard Cassius Stanley (2) drives to the basket against Fort Valley State during the second half of an NCAA exhibition college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Gerry Broome/Associated Press

No. 4 Duke kicked off its 2019-20 men's basketball season on a high note with a 68-66 win over No. 3 Kansas at the Champions Classic.

Even with Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett off to the NBA, the newest crop of freshmen, led by Cassius Stanley, picked up the slack for the Blue Devils. Tre Jones remained a steady presence as well while scoring the team's last six points.

Kansas got plenty of production from returning players like Ochai Agbaji and Devon Dotson, but 27 turnovers helped contribute to Tuesday's loss at Madison Square Garden.

Both teams earned big wins in last year's Champions Classic, but the Jayhawks will start this season with a losing record.

       

Notable Stats

  • Tre Jones, G, Duke: 15 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals
  • Cassius Stanley, G, Duke: 13 points, 5-of-6 FG
  • Vernon Carey Jr., C, Duke: 11 points, 6 rebounds
  • Matthew Hurt, F, Duke: 11 points, 3-of-7 3PT
  • Ochai Agbaji, G, Kansas: 15 points, 5 steals
  • Udoka Azubuike, C, Kansas: 8 points, 9 rebounds
  • David McCormack, F, Kansas: 6 points, 13 rebounds, 2 steals
  • Devon Dotson, G, Kansas: 17 points, 3 steals

       

Duke Is Still Loaded Without Last Year's Stars

The Blue Devils lost three NBA lottery picks from last year's team, and there is a clear drop-off in star power going into 2019-20.

However, Stanley was among those who turned heads with a huge second half:

Vernon Carey Jr. and Matthew Hurt also have loads of upside in the frontcourt even without posting huge numbers in their first game.

Meanwhile, perhaps the biggest difference is the depth, with head coach Mike Krzyzewski going further down his bench than usual.

Alex O'Connell made a significant impact off the bench with nine points and four rebounds, plus a few high-energy plays to keep Duke in the game, while Jack White came up big on the defensive end. They could remain an important piece during the year after depth was a problem last season.

             

Turnovers Help Sink Kansas Offensively

When things were going well, the Jayhawks were creating easy baskets with excellent ball movement:

Agbaji was extremely efficient with his ability to cut to the net and get open opportunities.

On the downside, there was plenty of inconsistency on that end of the court. The first half was especially embarrassing with 18 turnovers and just six assists.

You can excuse this performance being the first game against a quality opponent, but head coach Bill Self still shouldn't be happy with what he saw for most of the night. The fact that the entire starting lineup was full of returning players creates a higher standard for Kansas.

Still, there is a lot of talent on the squad, especially if Udoka Azubuike is at full strength:

Kansas wasn't able close out the win Tuesday, but this will once again be a dangerous team in the Big 12 if it can play smarter.

       

What's Next?

Both teams will open at home Friday against unranked nonconference foes. Duke will host Colorado State, while Kansas will take on UNC Greensboro.

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