Duke gets big win vs. Michigan, increases ACC lead in challenge
The marquee matchup for night one of the 15th installment of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge took place in Cameron, N.C., where No. 10 Duke dispatched of No. 22 Michigan, 79-69. Given that this is the lone game in the Challenge that pits two ranked teams against each other, it could be the most meaningful showdown during the two-night event.
Duke jumped out to a quick lead and never looked back. The Blue Devils led by 10 at halftime, and it got no closer than six in the second half. Some of the problems that have plagued Michigan in the first month of action showed up again. Derrick Watson Jr. had three turnovers and one assist. As a whole, the team gave the ball away 12 times and assisted on just 12 of 24 made field goals. That's a far cry from the days of Trey Burke. Nik Stauskus attempted just two field goals, missed both of them, and scored four points.
Glenn Robinson III might be of greater concern for the Wolverines. He scored just eight points while shooting 4-9 from the floor, including 0-2 from behind the arc. His scoring average is up a touch this year, but his field goal percentage has plummeted to 40.9 percent from 57.2 percent as a freshman. All the usual caveats about small sample sizes apply, but no player on Michigan appears to be feeling the loss of Burke as strongly as Robinson.
On the bright side, Mitch McGary had his best game of the season, scoring 15 points and pulling down 14 rebounds. After earning preseason All-American honors, McGary struggled while missing two games with a back ailment. He looked nothing like guy who helped carry the Wolverines to the championship game last year in averaging just 8.2 points and 7.8 rebounds entering Tuesday's game. If this is the game that gets him going, Michigan will be able to look back on this loss and count it as something of a moral victory. In addition, Caris LeVert scored 24 points, upping his scoring average to 15.1 PPG.
Michigan may be reeling in the early going this year, but this still stands as Duke's most impressive win to date. The Blue Devils fell to both of the ranked opponents they had faced before Tuesday, losing to Kansas and Arizona last month. Jabari Parker had 15 points on 7-14 shooting, but the real story was Quinn Cook. The junior guard scored 25 points and dished out nine assists. He made six of his 11 field goal attempts and connected on all 10 of his free throws. More importantly, he was a reliable floor general in a game where Duke desperately needed one. He had just four assists against Kansas and three against Arizona. All too often in both of those games, Duke's offense stagnated, unable to initiate its sets with consistency. That did not happen against Michigan on Tuesday night.
Duke outrebounded Michigan 32-31, but that's one weakness that continues to stand out for the Blue Devils. They were pounded on the glass in the losses to Kansas and Arizona, posted a -3 rebounding margin in a win over East Carolina, and grabbed just one more rebound than Alabama while defeating the Crimson Tide. If you're looking for an Achilles' heel for the Blue Devils, start there.
Syracuse took care of business in its first ever Big Ten-ACC Challenge game, beating Indiana 69-52. The Orange scored the first 10 points of the game, but led by just four at the half. The lead was back out to 10 within the first five minutes of the second half, and would be in double-digits for the rest of the night. Trevor Cooney led the way for the Orange, scoring 21 points. Tyler Ennis had 17, eight assists and seven rebounds, while C.J. Fair scored 15 and pulled down four boards. The ACC leads the Challenge 4-2. Georgia Tech beat Illinois, 67-64, and Pitt downed Penn State, 78-69. On the other side of the ledger, Iowa defeated Notre Dame by a 98-93 score, while Minnesota earned an impressive 71-61 victory over Florida State.