Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Tatum, Bolden Return for Duke, Kennard Goes Off for 35 in Win
By JOEDY McCREARYDURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Luke Kennard scored a career-best 35 points and freshman Jayson Tatum finished with 10 points in his long-awaited debut, leading No. 5 Duke past Maine 94-55 on Saturday.
Amile Jefferson added a career-high 20 points for the Blue Devils (8-1), who played without a true point guard.
Preseason All-America Grayson Allen and freshman Frank Jackson — their starting backcourt for the past four games — were held out. Allen has been dealing with a lingering toe injury, while Jackson has not had any publicly disclosed injuries.
Even without those two, the Blue Devils had plenty of offensive punch, shooting 60 percent in routing the struggling Black Bears (2-6). Ilker Er scored all 20 of his points in the first half for Maine.
The story of this one was who finally played for Duke — Tatum and big man Marques Bolden — as well as who didn’t.
“They are going to be special players for us,” Kennard said. “We were just really glad to have them back.”
“We got to keep finding minutes for these guys,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We have to put this thing together.”
Duke has been without three injured five-star freshmen all season, with Tatum out since spraining his foot during an October practice in front of NBA scouts and Bolden sidelined since injuring his leg before the regular season started.
Tatum wound up starting and scored his first basket on a banked jumper about 7 minutes in. Bolden was the first man off Duke’s bench and his first points came when he stuck back Tatum’s missed layup with about 7 1/2 minutes until halftime.
BIG PICTUREMaine: As their record might indicate, the Black Bears have some things to sort out, and Cameron Indoor Stadium is a tough place to fix those problems. To their credit, they kept things interesting in the first half while Duke figured out how to play without Allen and Jackson, but they didn’t have any answers for Kennard and managed just 23 points in the second half.
Duke: Now that two of their injured key players are back, the focus shifts to the two other players who sat this one out. Neither one took part in pregame warmups — both stood standing next to injured big man Sean Obi on the baseline — and they were on the bench in their warmup gear throughout.
UP NEXTMaine: The Black Bears return home to face Holy Cross on Wednesday night.
Duke: The Blue Devils take on a familiar face Tuesday night when they take on No. 24 Florida in the Jimmy V Classic in New York. The Gators are coached by Mike White — the son of Duke athletic director Kevin White.
Photo: Duke Athletics
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.