Top-ranked Duke gets breather versus Southern

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke passed its first major test of the season and now the No. 1-ranked Blue Devils have a couple of more home games before their first tournament.

Duke (3-0) goes against Southern (0-3) in Friday night's game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The Blue Devils topped second-ranked Michigan State 88-81 in Tuesday night's Champions Classic game in Chicago.

It's clear that the Blue Devils' newcomers are meshing well with Grayson Allen, a senior guard.

Allen is coming off a career-high 37-point performance in the Michigan State game.

Duke's backcourt combination has been solid, with freshman point guard Trevon Duval racking up 30 assists so far. That's the most for a Duke player through three games of a season in team history.

"(Duval) has been finding me," Allen said. "I don't even have to call for the ball sometimes. He just knows where I am."

Allen has reached the 30-point mark six times, with the Blue Devils holding a 6-0 record in those games.

Duval hasn't been alone in making an impact. After forward Marvin Bagley III had double-doubles in the first two games, forward Wendell Carter Jr. joined the club with his first double-double by notching 12 points and 12 rebounds against Michigan State.

Carter said playing with Duval has become a pleasure in their short time together with the Blue Devils.

"He makes it so much easier than most," Carter said. "He's a phenomenal player, very unselfish."

Those types of performances have helped defined Duke across the first week of the season.

"I think we do a great job of making the right basketball play -- whenever somebody's open, hitting that guy, cutting down," Bagley said. "Everybody's looking for everybody, so if we keep that up, we'll be a great team and we'll be hard to stop."

Bagley was named the season's first ACC Rookie of the Week and co-ACC Player of the Week.

Duke, which has won its last 134 nonconference home games, has two home games in four nights before heading to Portland, Ore., for the PK80 Classic.

Southern, which is guided by interim coach Morris Scott, has lost road games to Illinois, Marshall and Missouri State -- the most-recent of those coming Wednesday night.

"Hopefully, our tough nonconference schedule will allow us to be ready to compete at a high level in SWAC play," Scott said.

Southern's Jared Sam, a 6-foot-10 senior, 21 points against both Illinois and Marshall.

Scott said this is a different type of the team for the Jaguars, who last season had three seniors play prominent roles.

"Hopefully, we can continue to play a high-level brand of basketball like we have in the past," Scott said.

Scott was an assistant under former Southern coach Roman Banks, who's now the athletics director, for six seasons. Scott is searching for his first victory.

Duke and Southern have met only once, with Duke opening play in the 2006 NCAA Tournament by defeating the Jaguars at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Southern will stay in Durham for its fifth consecutive road game to face North Carolina Central on Sunday.