Duke basketball checks two Jon Scheyer boxes against Michigan State

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CHICAGO – Strength and unity.

Those are two topics Duke basketball coach Jon Scheyer mentioned in the preseason when asked about the lessons the Blue Devils could take from their loss to Tennessee in the 2023 NCAA Tournament.

The second-year head coach addressed those topics again after Duke’s loss to Arizona.

In Tuesday night’s 74-65 victory against No. 18 Michigan State, the ninth-ranked Blue Devils checked both boxes at the United Center.

After Duke’s loss to the Wildcats, Scheyer said the Blue Devils didn’t play together and “didn’t play Duke basketball.” But he was angry about his team’s performance in Chicago.

There was a series against the Spartans that showed their growth. Three Blue Devils dove to the floor to choke one Spartan and force a jump ball. Duke got possession – and got a bucket on the next trip down the court.

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In addition to busy plays, the Blue Devils had 17 assists on 22 baskets, won the rebound battle and knocked down 24 of 30 free throws in a grinding performance against the hard-nosed Spartans.

“We stepped up in a big way,” Scheyer said. “I’ve learned more about this team in the first three games than probably any team I’ve been with, as an assistant coach, as a head coach … about their character.”

Duke basketball’s Ryan Young, Caleb Foster reacts against Michigan State

Ryan Young, one of Duke’s three captains this season, is no stranger to Chicago or the Big Ten as he was a player at Northwestern. Caleb Foster, a freshman, is a stranger to everything at this point.

After the Arizona loss, Young and Foster were among the players who received a lot of criticism on social media. Young responded with eight points, seven rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes against the Spartans.

“I was thinking about the rebound, the response, and just doing whatever it takes to win, that’s what it’s all about,” Scheyer said. “Doing whatever it takes to win, these guys did it. “

Foster’s performance was even better. After posting zero against the Wildcats, Foster had 18 points on 7-for-8 shooting – including four 3-pointers – and three rebounds.

“I was definitely mad that we lost, but one thing my dad always told me is to stay consistent,” Foster said. “There’s going to be ups and downs throughout the season, so just keep your head up and keep working.”

In his opening remarks Tuesday, Scheyer made a point to comment on Foster’s reaction after the rough outing against Arizona.

“He’s coming off a game on Friday, where he didn’t like the way,” Scheyer said.

“Whether he’s frustrated with me, frustrated with how he played or the game … going to play at Duke — or going to play anywhere — there’s going to be ups and downs . There are going to be times where you get hit back, but the program that I know Duke to be, it’s about how you respond.”

Playing against a Michigan State starting lineup that has a combined 500 games of experience, Foster, Young and the Blue Devils answered the challenge. They also looked at two boxes that could shape the rest of their season.

Staff writer Rodd Baxley can be reached at rbaxley@fayobserver.com or @RoddBaxley on X/Twitter.

This article first appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Duke basketball vs. Michigan State: Toughness, unity leads to win

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