By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
One thing Duke head basketball coach Mike Kryzewski warned his team about was a game Tennessee State basketball team that would not be intimidated by his fourth-ranked Blue Devils or playing before a national television audience in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
He was right on both accounts.
Tennessee State trailed only by four at halftime and briefly led in the second half before two Duke runs ended the Tigers' threat as the Blue Devils downed TSU 65-55 Monday.
Luke Kennard led Duke (11-1) with 24 points with Jayson Tatum adding 14, including some big points that helped put TSU away. Darron Redick and Tahjere McCall both had 14 to lead TSU (8-3).
The loss comes on the heels of an overtime loss to Duke's fellow ACC team, North Carolina State on Dec. 10. The Tigers three losses this season have been to Duke, North Carolina State and Vanderbilt.
Kryzewski called Monday's game a tough one between two good defensive teams.
"They're a very good basketball team, they'll have a chance at winning their conference," Kryzewski said of TSU. "I told our guys that this was the kind of opponent that you face in the NCAA Tournament -- old, really well-coached team, and they play defense and rebound -- in other words, the two things they do best are play defense and rebound. So that's going to come every night. I thought we did that tonight, or else we would have lost."
McCall's layup with 16:32 left in the second half gave TSU a 32-31 lead. A Wayne Martin jumper kept the Tigers in front at 36-34 a minute later.
But Kennard hit two three-pointers and a lay-up during a 11-0 Duke run over the next four and a half minutes to put Duke up 47-36. The Blue Devils extended their lead to 20 points - 59-39 - behind Tatum and Kennard with less than eight minutes left to salt away the win.
But it wasn't easy for Duke. TSU held the Blue Devils to 28 percent shooting in the first half and 37 percent for the entire game. TSU also outscored Duke in the paint 32-18.
TSU head coach Dana Ford said the Tigers had some transition mix-ups in the second half, leading to some uncontested shots and brought the crowd into the game.
"Late there in the second half, Tatum really made some tough shots and really kind of took the air out of us, Ford said. "I'm very proud of how hard our guys continued to fight, and we just have to try to learn from this. Hopefully we realize that if we play as a team, we currently feel like we can play with anybody in the country. But we're trying to get to the point where we can consistently compete against high level teams. Our goal is to win our conference and play in the NCAA Tournament."
TSU's next game is Dec. 27 against Covenant at home in Gentry Center.