DURHAM — Freshman Jalen Johnson had 19 points, 19 rebounds and four blocks to help No. 9 Duke overcome a turnover-filled performance and beat Coppin State 81-71 in Saturday’s delayed season opener for both teams.
The 6-foot-9 Johnson made all eight of his shots from the field, including a 3-pointer, and both of his free throws while also tallying five assists. Fellow rookie DJ Steward scored 24 points for the Blue Devils, including a key 3-pointer with 2:02 left that helped keep Duke in control during an unexpectedly tight finish.
Duke was playing without its rowdy fans in the famously hostile Cameron Indoor Stadium due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Blue Devils shot 53% but committed 22 turnovers to give the Eagles plenty of extra chances, with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski saying simply: “It’s tough to explain some of those turnovers.”
“There was a lot of game pressure on our team today,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s such an unusual atmosphere.”
DeJuan Clayton and Anthony Tarke each scored 22 points to lead the Eagles, who shot 33% but made 10 3-pointers — seven coming after halftime — to keep the pressure on Duke the entire second half. Coppin State, picked fourth in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s Northern Division, scored 28 points off turnovers.
“We just wanted to give our guards the freedom to go out there and make plays,” Coppin State coach Juan Dixon said, adding: “If our guys can play against this top-10 team like this, we feel as though we can compete with any team in the country.”
The Blue Devils were set to face Gardner-Webb on Wednesday before that game was postponed due to coronavirus issues within the Runnin’ Bulldogs program. This was the first chance to see how Duke’s lineup would look after the departures of prominent players like point guard Tre Jones and big man Vernon Carey Jr. Duke helped offset the turnover problem and a bad day at the foul line (4 for 10) by finishing with a 50-31 rebounding advantage.
The Blue Devils host No. 13 Michigan State on Tuesday in the Champions Classic.
Elon 76, High Point 75
ELON — Hunter McIntosh had 21 points, including the go-ahead free throws with 3 seconds left, as Elon narrowly beat High Point 76-75 on Saturday.
Jerald Gillens-Butler had 16 points for Elon (2-0). Federico Poser added 12 points.
John-Michael Wright had 20 points for the Panthers (0-2). Emmanuel Izunabor added 16 points.
Elon takes on Duke on the road next Sunday. High Point matches up against North Florida at home next Saturday.
Western Carolina 83, UNC Asheville 81 (OT)
ASHEVILLE — Matt Halvorsen scored 21 points as Western Carolina beat UNC Asheville 83-81 in overtime on Saturday.
Xavier Cork had 16 points, including a tying putback at the buzzer to force overtime at 71-71, as well as three blocks for Western Carolina (2-1). Mason Faulkner added 15 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Travion McCray had 11 points.
Tajion Jones scored 24 points with six rebounds for the Bulldogs (0-2). Jamon Battle added 18 points and 10 rebounds. LJ Thorpe had 12 points and Trent Stephney 11. The Bulldogs were missing starters Devon Baker and Coty Jude for a second game with unspecified minor injuries.
UNC Asheville trailed by 20 early in the second half but fought into a 71-69 lead when Thorpe sank two free throws with 27 seconds remaining in regulation.
Halvorsen missed a layup with five seconds remaining but Cork was there for the tying putback and Western Carolina edged away in OT.
UNC Asheville commited 20 turnovers that Western Carolina turned into 27 points.
UNC Wilmington 73, Troy 50
ASHEVILLE — Jaylen Sims had a career-high 29 points as UNC Wilmington routed Troy 73-50 on Saturday.
Sims hit 6 of 8 3-pointers. He added nine rebounds.
Ty Gadsden had 18 points for UNC Wilmington (2-1). Mike Okauru added 12 points and seven rebounds.
Desmond Williams had 15 points for the Trojans (1-1). Zay Williams added nine rebounds.