In the final stretch of the season, touted Duke freshman Jayson Tatum came into his own, and his improvement turned his squad from a midseason disappointment to a favorite to win the NCAA tournament. Tatum and the Blue Devils looked the part in their opening game Friday, easily handling a Troy team that fell behind early and could never make up the gap, falling by an 87-65 score.
Duke’s final basket exemplified how well things were working for it Friday. Lightly used freshman Javin DeLaurier lost control of the ball on his way to the basket, but it fell through the hoop anyway.
The final moments of the first half also produced a Blue Devils highlight, as Tatum made a resounding block on a layup attempt by Trojans senior guard Jeremy Hollimon just before the buzzer. Tatum finished with four blocks, while adding 18 points and 12 rebounds. According to ESPN, it was the first double-double by a Duke freshman making his tournament debut since Danny Ferry in 1986, versus Mississippi Valley State.
Junior Grayson Allen led Duke with 21 points, including hitting five of nine three-pointers, while senior Matt Jones and freshman Frank Jackson had 14 apiece. Sophomore Jordon Varnado led the Trojans with 18 points, and Wesley Person Jr., whose father enjoyed a lengthy NBA career, added 15.
The second-seeded team in the East Region, Duke used its win over No. 15 Troy to advance to a game against the winner Friday’s South Carolina-Marquette matchup. The Blue Devils are seeking their sixth national title and second in three years.