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Behind strong defensive performance, No. 4 Duke holds on to defeat No. 3 Kansas 68-66 in Champions Classic

Torrey Hart
Yahoo Sports Contributor
Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) drives to the basket past Duke guard Cassius Stanley (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

No. 3 Kansas and No. 4 Duke kicked off their seasons at Madison Square Garden with a nail-biter Tuesday night, albeit one extremely fitting of November basketball, as the Blue Devils outlasted the Jayhawks, 68-66.

In an all-around ugly game, Kansas’ first half was perhaps the most startling aspect. The Jayhawks shot 53 percent but took only 19 shots, while turning over the ball 18 times.

Duke’s defense was initially stifling, but Kansas battled to a 22-18 lead midway through the first half. But the Jayhawks’ turnovers became a major factor, and Duke rallied to a 33-30 at the half.

“Yeah, we were awful,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said when asked about his team’s early performance. But things shortly started to turn around, at least temporarily.

Duke’s previously solid defense started to crumble and midway through the second half Kansas went on a 14-0 run to go up six points with about 15 minutes remaining. That run included one of the highlights of the game, a deep 3-pointer from Ochai Agbaji.

Duke countered with a 10-1 run of their own shortly thereafter, however, tying things up with just over 11 minutes remaining thanks to a big play from Tre Jones and Cassius Stanley.

Remarkably, the Jayhawks went eight minutes before their first turnover in the second half. Duke’s defense went on to force nine more turnovers from there — 28 in all on the night.

Matthew Hurt hit a big 3-pointer with three-and-a-half minutes remaining for Duke, and the game was tied up at 59 with three minutes to go. An and-one from Stanley and jumper from Jones put the Blue Devils up three before taking a timeout with 1:33 to play, and they got a stop with 4.2 seconds left to effectively seal the deal.

Jones led Duke with 15 points, six rebounds and six assists, while Devon Dotson led Kansas with 17 points, two rebounds and an assist. The Blue Devils shot 38.3 percent from field goal range (23 of 60) and the Jayhawks shot 45.1 percent (23 of 51).

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