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Devils Get Past Bulldogs 80-61

It may sound strange to say it, but you can almost bank on it: Yale is easily an NCAA level team.

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Nov 25, 2015; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils center Marshall Plumlee (40) celebrates with guard Brandon Ingram (14) after he scored against the Yale Bulldogs in their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Nov 25, 2015; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils center Marshall Plumlee (40) celebrates with guard Brandon Ingram (14) after he scored against the Yale Bulldogs in their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Duke 80 Yale 61.

But scores can be deceptive and this one was.

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Thanksgiving is the time for homecomings. The Duke men’s basketball team returned home after last week’s mixed-blessings road-trip.

And for much of the first half, it looked like Duke had started early on that Thanksgiving turkey. The Yale Bulldogs out-hustled and outsmarted Duke for sizable chunks of the opening 20 minutes.

Make no mistake, Yale is a good basketball team. They tied Harvard for the Ivy League title last season--Harvard won a playoff the for the league’s NCAA berth--and are favored to win the conference this season. They took SMU down to the wire last week before losing 71-69.

And they are experienced, starting four seniors and a sophomore. Duke doesn’t even have four seniors.

Yale coach James Jones credits his veterans for his team’s great start. "It’s everything. You talk about having senior leadership and having guys that are going to be out there who know what you’re doing, especially when you’re playing in a place where your kids can’t hear and you’re in a situation where they know what to do."

What they knew how to do was attack the offensive boards and Duke’s sluggish defense. Yale jumped to a 9-0 lead after 2:10. Yale scored on their first six possessions and grabbed the game’s first six rebounds. They outscored Duke 12-3 on second-chance points in the first half.

Duke began crawling back, 3-pointers from Brandon Ingram, Luke Kennard and Derryck Thornton keying a run that cut it to 15-14.

Duke took its first lead at 20-19 but Yale scored the next eight points before Matt Jones hit a short jumper. This was the first Duke field goal scored by a non-freshman and came 13 minutes into the contest.

Yale led 31-24, with five minutes left in the half, when Duke put on their big boy pants and started getting to the rim. Grayson Allen scored eight points in three minutes to pull Duke back.

The Blue Devils closed the half with three defensive stops, two that they turned into fast-break points, Kennard digging out a loose ball on the floor and getting it ahead to Allen for a dunk. This tied the game at 36, with 48 seconds left. Matt Jones got a steal and lay-up 19 seconds later.

A Marshall Plumlee steal ended the half, with Duke up 38-36.

Allen said that defensive surge was crucial. "It was big. The way we closed out the half was the way we started the second half, with a lot of energy."

Allen showed off his all-around skills early in the second half, deflecting passes on several occasions and assisting Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones (on a 3-pointer) as Duke got some early separation.

"I’m getting more comfortable out there," Allen said of his improving play-making skills, "knowing when guys are going to come open and how to get them ball."

Duke played a 1-3-1 zone most of the second half and it helped in several respects. Jefferson used the word "connected" and cited the improved rebounding opportunities. After a foul-plagued first half, Jefferson grabbed six rebounds in the first 6:15 of the second half.

Allen cited Ingram and Jefferson’s length as the game-changer.

Duke got its first double-digit lead at 48-38, when Ingram went coast-to-coast after a steal.

This finished a decisive 15-2 Duke run that spanned two halves.

It helped when Yale’s inside presence, Brandon Sherrod, fouled out with over 11 minutes remaining, with eight points and eight rebounds in only 17 minutes.

Duke continued to pour it on, Matt Jones getting hot, Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee dominating inside and Yale struggling against the zone.

About that zone. Mike Krzyzewski noted that his young Duke team hasn’t had much time to practice. "As we learn more about it, we had good length and can go after some balls We got one ot two and we almost got a few others. All of a sudden, they’re not attacking as well. I think Grayson started that."

The slow start? It wasn’t your imagination. Allen used the word "flat." Both Jones and Jefferson admitted they weren’t sure what was going on but suggested Duke wasn’t talking much early on. Not sure if that was the cause or the effect. But Krzyzewski said he thought his team was tired after last week.

Duke won’t play away from Cameron on December 19, but will have to find time to teach around exams, a delicate balance but one that the head guy has done a few times down the road.


After being out rebounded 18-11 in the first half, Duke won the battle of the boards 26-19 in the second half. Jefferson ended with nine points and 12 rebounds, Plumlee five points and eight rebounds.

Four Blue Devils hit double-figures in points. Jones led Duke with 17 points, with Ingram adding 15, Allen 14 and Kennard 12. Allen added five assists, five rebounds, a steal and enough floor burns to satisfy even the toughest critic.

Duke had six turnovers in the first half but only three after intermission.

Allen went 6-6 from the line and is 41-45 on the season. That’s 91 percent.

Justin Sears led everyone with 19 points. He was the 2015 Ivy League Player of the Year.