DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – Luke Kennard scored 24 points and No. 5 Duke beat Tennessee State 65-55 on Monday night.
Freshman forward Jayson Tatum added 14 points and Grayson Allen finished with 12 for the Blue Devils (11-1), who plodded through 30 mostly sluggish minutes before pulling away from a pesky Tigers team that threatened to spoil the college debut of touted Duke freshman Harry Giles.
Tennessee State led 36-34 on Wayne Martin’s jumper with 15 minutes left. Duke countered with a 25-3 run highlighted by five 3-pointers – including two by Kennard on consecutive possessions after he was left completely unguarded – to take a 59-39 lead.
Darreon Reddick and Tahjere McCall scored 14 points apiece for the Tigers (8-3).
Amile Jefferson had a career-best 18 rebounds for Duke, which finally got Giles on the floor for the first time. One of the nation’s top recruits, he missed his senior season in high school with torn knee ligaments in his right knee and then missed the first 11 games at Duke after having his left knee scoped in October.
Tennessee State: This was the second time in nine days that the Tigers threw a scare into the host team at an historic Atlantic Coast Conference venue, after taking North Carolina State to overtime nine days earlier in the Wolfpack’s first game at renovated Reynolds Coliseum. Tennessee State’s three losses have all come on the road against Power 5 programs, with the other defeat coming at Vanderbilt.
Duke: The impact of Giles’ return went far beyond his meager line in the boxscore – no points, no rebounds, and 0-for-1 shooting in 4 first-half minutes. For the first time, the Blue Devils had the full complement of star freshmen that made them No. 1 in the preseason polls.
For most of the night, though, they simply didn’t play like it – shooting 37 percent and finishing just 19 of 32 from the free throw line while establishing a season-low scoring total.
Tennessee State: The Tigers have eight days before their next game, a home date with Division III Covenant on Dec. 27.
Duke: The Blue Devils play Elon on Wednesday night at the Greensboro Coliseum.