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Hello toughness, Duke's old friend. Blue Devils rediscover their edge.

Steve Wiseman, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) on

Published in Basketball

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- It figures to take Duke all season to escape from the proverbial wreckage of its loss to Stephen F. Austin. That's the kind of loss that will reverberate throughout the remainder of Duke's 2019-20 run.

The only way for Duke to recast last week's 85-83 overtime loss is to use it as a jumping off point to a great season.

At Duke, of course, a great season means spending March and early April earning new banners to hang in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

On Tuesday night in one of the nation's toughest venues for an opposing team, Duke pulled together time and time again to push its unsightly loss further in the past and show it might be capable of collecting banners and championships after all.

The Blue Devils' 87-75 win over Michigan State was dominating on all fronts. The Spartans, the nation's No. 1 team when the season began, held two leads -- 2-0 and 5-4. That's it. Jack White's layup less than three minutes into the first half gave Duke a lead it never lost.

"We knew what we had gotten ourselves into here tonight," Duke guard Tre Jones said. "We knew how together we'd have to be out there and how much we'd have to fight and how tough we'd have to play to get a win."

 

Playing as the nation's No. 1 team, Duke didn't employ that style of play or that urgency in two home games last week. The Blue Devils did beat Winthrop 83-70 three nights after losing to SFA, but no one around the program was satisfied with that performance.

"Even in Friday's game, we weren't really ourselves," Jones said. "Still missing a little bit. But the way we fought tonight, the way we defended is something we've done all season, except last week. We've got to keep that up. Keep defending like we know how we can."

Jones and freshman center Vernon Carey put up the biggest numbers on the stat sheet for Duke as both produced double-doubles.

Carey was unguardable at times, scoring 26 points with 11 rebounds. Jones scored 20 points while collecting 12 assists. Only one other player in Duke history, Bobby Hurley, had a road game with 20 points and at least 10 assists.

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