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#1/1 Duke Blue Devils [2-1, 0-0] vs. #UR Penn State Nittany Lions [2-1, 0-0] November 19, 2016 • 12:30 PM ET • Uncasville, CT • Mohegan Sun Arena
Media: ESPN3, Local Radio
By Randy Dunson [Note: Please direct comments, suggestions, etc. to @RandyDunson]


About The Hall Of Fame Tip-Off Tournament

The Basketball Hall of Fame hosts the annual Tip-Off Tournament each November. The Tip-Off Tournament is an NCAA exempt men’s basketball tournament sponsored by the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). Each year, top teams and conferences will compete in the Basketball Hall of Fame’s event showcasing its talents in New England’s only exempt Division I college basketball tournament. The original Tip-Off was held in Springfield for more than 25 years. The format has changed, but the name has remained the same.


Team Overviews


Top-ranked Duke will look to rebound from its first loss of the season on Saturday when it faces Penn State in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off. The Blue Devils are 247-74 (.769) in neutral settings under head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K has led Duke to an 88-16 (.846) record and 18 titles in in-season tournaments. The Blue Devils have won the third-most games (212) and have the fourth-best winning percentage (.815) in the nation this decade. Duke’s perimeter defense has held opponents to just a .148 mark from three-point range this season. Opponents are averaging only 2.7 three pointers per game on the year. Duke has forced at least 14 turnovers in each of its first three games, turning them into an average of 15.7 points per game.

Offensively, the Blue Devils lead the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency with a mark of 121.5 points per 100 possessions. Duke’s attacking style has led to an average possession length of 13.6 seconds. Grayson Allen will head into the Penn State game needing 15 points to become the 65th member of Duke’s 1,000-point club. Saturday will mark his 75th career game. Frank Jackson has burst onto the scene with three double-figure scoring games to open his career. He is shooting .538 (7-of-13) from outside the arc. Matt Jones played all 40 minutes against Kansas Tuesday and leads Duke with an average of 34.7 minutes per game. He has started 51 straight games in which he has played.


  • Duke’s perimeter defense has been stifling in the early going of 2016-17, holding teams to a .148 mark from three-point range that ranks eighth nationally and third among major-conference teams.
  • None of Duke’s three opponents has made more than three three-pointers in a game this season.
  • Duke has outscored teams 57 points (81-24), an average of 19.0 points per game, from three-point territory through three games.
  • Duke has held a lead at the half in each of its games this season, outscoring opponents by an average of 16.0 points (134-86) in the opening period.
  • The Blue Devils have yet to allow a team to reach the 30-point mark in a first half this season.

Probable Starters

Guard – Sophomore Grayson Allen

Guard – Junior Matt Jones

Guard –Sophomore Luke Kennard

Forward – Sophomore Chase Jeter

Forward – Grad Student Amile Jefferson


Penn State

The Nittany Lions will take on No. 1 Duke in the first semifinal of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at 12:30 PM ET Saturday at Mohegan Sun. The game will be shown on ESPN3. It is the first meeting vs. the top-ranked team in the country since 2011. Penn State is 0-13 all-time against the No. 1 team. Penn State has won each of its last two games after starting the season with loss vs. Albany. Last time out, the Lions defeated Grand Canyon 85-76 as part of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off on-campus contests. The Lions will play six games within the first two weeks of the season and a program-record tying eight in the month of November. They had three within the first five days of the season.

Five players are averaging in double figures after three games, led by freshmen Lamar Stevens (17.7 PPG). Three freshmen – Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins – were among the starters on opening night, marking the first time in program history three rookies were on the floor to start the season opener and the first time since the final three games of the 2007-08 season that at least three starters were freshmen in any game.



  • Penn State Against the ACC
    • Penn State is 147-187 against ACC opponents all-time, most frequently facing Pittsburgh (76-69) and Syracuse (43-62). Duke is the first of three ACC teams on the 2016-17 schedule for the Nittany Lions. They will host Georgia Tech Nov. 29 in the B1G/ACC Challenge and take on Pittsburgh Dec. 10 in the inaugural Never Forget Tribute Classic at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The latter is part of a doubleheader with Villanova and Notre Dame.
  • Penn State Against No. 1 Teams
    • Penn State enters Saturday with an 0-13 record all-time against opponents ranked No. 1 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. PSU last faced a No. 1 team on March 13, 2011, when Penn State fell, 71-60, to top-ranked Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament.


Probable Starters

Guard – Junior Shep Garner

Forward – Junior Payton Banks

Forward – Freshman Lamar Stevens

Forward – RS Freshman Mike Watkins

Guard – Freshman Tony Carr



Last Time Out


Kansas had already gone through a tough loss this season, falling in overtime to Indiana in Honolulu. On Tuesday night, the Jayhawks went from looking like easy winners to facing another excruciating loss. However, a short jumper by Frank Mason III with 1.8 seconds to go gave the Jayhawks a 77-75 victory over top-ranked Duke in the State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden. “The play was to (isolate) me, and my teammates did a good job of spacing the floor,” Mason said. “It felt good when it left my hand.” A long 3 at the buzzer by Duke’s Frank Jackson was off-line. The Jayhawks (1-1) beat a top-ranked team for the eighth time.

“This was more of a must-win for us than it was for Duke. Not that there’s must-win this time of year, but I think it will do something for us because for the first time we won a game where we shot it like crap,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “So hopefully we learned some lessons and know that you cannot be great offensively and still win if you (don’t) do little things and play aggressively. So I think it should bode well for us moving forward.” Self was all smiles talking about his senior point guard.

“He’s made a lot of big plays for us,” Self said of Mason. “I don’t know if he’s made any game winners but he’s made plays to put us in overtime. Yeah, he’s a stud.” “Mason made a big-time play, and it was well-guarded,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He just made a big-time play.” Kansas was ahead 62-50 with eight minutes to play, but the Blue Devils (2-1) — despite an off night by Grayson Allen, the leading vote-getter on The Associated Press’ preseason All-America team — managed to suddenly start hitting shots, and they tied the game at 75 with 15 seconds left on a 3-pointer by Jackson.

Kansas called a timeout with 8.2 seconds left and set up the game winner. “That was quite a play we called, just get out of his way,” Self said. “I just took advantage of the separation I created and I just shot the ball,” Mason said. “It felt good when it left my hand, and I just thank God that it went in.” Mason, who had a career-high 30 in the loss to Indiana, led Kansas with 21 points. Freshman Josh Jackson added 15, and Devonte’ Graham had 13.

“I think Grayson had a very frustrating game,” Krzyzewski said of Allen, who started the game by making one of 12 shots from the field. “I think you can’t expect to get a foul. I think he’s going to a point where he makes a move and it’s a good move and he expects a foul. I’m not saying they’re not calling fouls. You can’t do that. That can’t be what you’re doing. The last few minutes, he moved well. He’s playing hard when he gets the ball and he needs to play harder when he doesn’t have the ball. It’s what he did in the last few minutes.”

Kansas finished 2-for-17 from 3-point range, but the Jayhawks shot 50.8 percent overall (33 of 65), including making 60.6 percent (20 of 33) in the second half. Duke shot 48.9 percent (23 of 47) for the game, including going 8-for-19 on 3s.


  • Big Picture
    • In their first two games, the Blue Devils held opponents to 55.0 points per game on 32.3 percent shooting, including 16.2 percent from 3-point range while forcing an average of 17 turnovers. …
    • This was the 950th consecutive game the Blue Devils made at least one 3-pointer. That’s the fourth-longest stretch in Division I history. …
    • Duke played again without freshmen Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum. Krzyzewski has said they will be brought along slowly as they rehab from injuries.


Penn State

With injuries impacting its lineup early, freshmen have had to play big minutes in Penn State’s new fast-paced offense. They haven’t disappointed and on Tuesday, the Nittany Lions’ promising freshman class got help from a handful of veterans to pull away from Grand Canyon 85-76.

Rookie Lamar Stevens scored 19 points and top returning scorers Payton Banks (15) and Shep Garner (14) chipped in to lead the Nittany Lions in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.

”I think we’ve made a lot of good strides over the last three games,” Banks said. ”I think we’re jelling well. I feel like the rotation, we’re starting to get used to it, starting to get used to where guys are going to be.”

They were all over the paint in scoring 40 points and netting 20 second-chance points against the Antelopes. Along with Stevens, freshman Tony Carr also had his third-straight double-digit game with 10 points.

This is the type of scoring potential Penn State coach Pat Chambers envisioned when he pledged to meld young and old and chase 80-plus points per game in the preseason. To get there, the Nittany Lions (2-1) needed to overcome a 0-for-9 shooting slump in the first five minutes of the second half that saw them squander a 48-41 halftime lead.

”I found out a lot about my team,” Chambers said. ”They dug deep, they got back to the middle of the ring, they punched back, and we took the lead.”

Joshua Braun made 5 of 10 3-pointers and led Grand Canyon (0-2) with 25 points. Oscar Frayer, Darion Clark, Keonta Vernon, and Shaq Carr also finished in double figures for the Antelopes with 13, 12, 11, and 10 points, respectively. Braun hit 2 of 3 free throws with 15:29 left to give Grand Canyon a 50-48 lead – its last of the game.

The Nittany Lions put together an impressive 13-7 run immediately thereafter in which Banks and Stevens combined for all 13 points. Stevens tipped in a rebound with 6:06 left to put Penn State up 75-63 for its biggest lead.

”We knew it was going to be tough game,” Grand Canyon coach Dan Majerle said. ”We’re shorthanded, DeWayne Russell is our starting point guard, he wasn’t able to play the first two games, we’ll get him back.”


  • Busy Schedule Penn State played its third game in five days and its schedule remains hectic for the near future. The Nittany Lions will cap the tournament with back-to-back games this weekend and will play five times in the final 11 days of the month.
  • More From Moore Julian Moore led Penn State with nine rebounds and had the type of game Chambers hoped he would have earlier. However, foul trouble in the first two games limited Moore’s minutes. He played 20 against the Antelopes.
  • Hurt Lions Guard Josh Reaves missed his third game with a lower leg injury and he’s not expected to play this weekend. Forward Davis Zemgulis missed his first game with a concussion and Isaiah Washington also sat out for Penn State with an unspecified ailment.


Series History

Penn State matches up with the Blue Devils for just the 10th time in program history on Saturday, entering the game with a 1-8 record against Duke all-time. The lone win came in the teams’ first meeting when the Nittany Lions edged Duke, 51-48, on Dec. 28, 1949. Saturday’s matchup marks the first time the two sides have met since Dec. 30, 1970, in which Duke earned a 67-56 win over Penn State.

ACC History

Penn State is 147-187 against ACC opponents all-time, most frequently facing Pittsburgh (76-69) and Syracuse (43-62). Duke is the first of three ACC teams on the 2016-17 schedule for the Nittany Lions. They will host Georgia Tech Nov. 29 in the B1G/ACC Challenge and take on Pittsburgh Dec. 10 in the inaugural Never Forget Tribute Classic at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The latter is part of a doubleheader with Villanova and Notre Dame.

[NB: Full statistical parameters will not be displayed until after the fifth game is played. Some statistics will be noted in other sections though.]


Duke2015-16 Regular Season Key Stats ComparisonPenn State
PPG (Scoring Margin)
Opponents PPG
Effective FG%
Opponent FG%
Opponent 3PT FG%
RPG (Rebound Margin)
Opponent RPG
SPG (%)
Turnovers Per Game (Margin)
Opponent TOPG
Fouls Per Game


Four Factors to Winning

[NB: Same applies here as for statistics] [If you wish to learn more about how the four factors are calculated and implemented, a description can always be found here,]


Key Points to Consider

[NB: Same applies here as for statistics]

First, a few points regarding both team’s overall profile at this point:



Penn State’s shown us some firepower despite playing with a depleted lineup through three games into the season. In that stretch, the team went 2-1, scored at least 81 points in each contest and is collectively shooting 45.8 percent from the field, including 42.1 percent from deep during Tuesday’s victory over Grand Canyon.

What’s truly surreal, though, is that the freshmen have been leading the way for the Lions. Rookies Lamar Stevens (17.7) and Tony Carr (14.7) are both scoring in double-digits, while last season’s top returnees Shep Garner and Payton Banks have poured in 15.0 and 12.7 points, respectively.

In addition, Penn State has Julian Moore and Josh Reaves, two premier shot blockers who are underrated. Duke is still without three of its top freshmen due to injury, which makes the Blue Devils vulnerable even with the talent they still put on the floor.

However, this weekend’s showdown with No. 1 Duke is where Penn State can measure its real potential. A win for them would be very shocking, especially upon considering how incredibly more talented, deeper (only if Duke utilizes its bench and does not go just six deep) and experienced the Blue Devils are. Nonetheless, the Lions have a bunch of promising and fearless youngsters who can make basket at will, which should make this game competitive early on.

The first-ranked Blue Devils should still be in a foul mood right now, constantly trying to forget about Frank Mason III’s game-winning jumper that handed them their first loss of the season. However, they could be in a fouler mood on Saturday if they lose to Penn State.

That won’t happen, though. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski will get his crew geared up—physically and mentally—to lay down a massive beating upon the inferior Lions. Duke’s leading scorer Grayson Allen (17.7 PPG), who had a terrible outing (12 points on 4-of-15 shooting) versus Kansas, is in line for a big bounce-back game. He’s up against a Penn State defense that’s giving up nearly 80 points per game this season.

Luke Kennard (17.3 PPG) and Frank Jackson (16.7 PPG) are bound to light up the scoreboard as well, especially from the three-point line where the two are shooting 50.0 and 53.8 percent, respectively.

Some Key Points (in no certain order)

  • Bench Management
    • This is my own opinion. Coach K has always had a strategy for player management, particularly when it comes to rotation.
    • One begs to question why he did not go deeper in the loss to Kansas.
    • Some might argue that there was an absence of match-ups in who might fit best against KU.
    • In my opinion, in a game like this one, you throw match-ups out the door, and let bench players adapt, even though they may be freshmen
  • Rebounding
    • Controlling the boards is an area of concern for Duke, which was outrebounded by the Jayhawks, 38-29, including a 14-6 ratio in the offensive glass
    • A repeat of this could enable Penn State to stay within striking distance down the stretch
  • Avoid foul trouble
    • As noted above, Krzyzewski appears to have already shortened his rotation to six guys
    • With Marques Bolden, Jayson Tatum, and Harry Giles still out, Frank Jackson seems to be Duke’s only bench player
    • Javin DeLaurier and Antonio Vrankovic are getting very limited minutes
    • So, it’s critical that Duke’s starters stay out of foul trouble, especially in the frontcourt; Jeter struggled with that last season, so Saturday will be another good chance to see if he’s improved
  • Containing Lamar Stevens
    • Although a freshman, Stevens has led team in scoring (17.7 PPG) through first week of the season, pouring in 24 and 19 respectively in their two wins; also pulling down 5.0 rebounds per game, the second most on the team
    • Stevens has already developed a knack for attacking the rim and finding his way to the charity stripe; 23-25 on the year from the free throw line, accounting for nearly half of his 53 points so far this season.
    • Duke must keep Stevens out of the lane and force him to beat them with his jumper


For Duke in this game it’s not really going to be about what Penn State does but about what Duke does. Coming off of the loss to Kansas there were glaring issues that may not even be able to be resolved against Penn State. Duke needs to improve both its back-court and front-court play. Without a tried and true point guard on this team, Duke has struggled with offensive fluidity.

Duke will need to establish a low post presence to free up some seams for shooters. Duke will also need execute better but offensively was only part of the issue; Duke gave up entirely too many points in the paint. Kansas scored at will by driving directly into the teeth of the Duke defense.

Clearly, there are pieces missing from this team but if they are to gain traction in the interim, it has to start with defense.

Coming off an emotional defeat, this Duke team has learned some things about itself in the first week of the season and fans ought to be happy with what they’ve seen thus far. In Uncasville, look for Luke Kennard to stay hot, Grayson Allen to get back to being, well, Grayson Allen and I believe the opportunity will present itself for Coach K to look further down that bench. This Penn State squad is outmatched and outmanned in every aspect, however they need to be wary.

I often like to look at how bookies predict game outcomes. Therefore, there is little doubt that Duke is going to win this game so the question is whether or not they will cover the big number. The key will be Duke having a great first half because the bench for Duke right now is simply not very deep, partly due to underutilization in my opinion. I think the Blue Devils will bounce back with a big effort so I will lay the points and hope to avoid a backdoor cover by Penn State. That said, I still feel that Duke should win easily, 81-60.

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