Tom Izzo never did one thing for his college basketball successes: win at Cameron Indoor Stadium against Duke.
Michigan State No. 8 returned from an early nine-point disadvantage and defeated Duke No. 6 in the first game of the Champions Classic by 75-69.
“We came here to win a match,” said Izzo, who was 0-3 at Cameron. “I think I’ve done a bad job over the years. Either I get too excited about the game or I give them too much credit. I thought we were a good team that could beat them. I thought they had a good team, but I thought we were defending and our depth – and that’s how it turned out. “
It also meant Michigan State’s first win over Duke, with all three previous attempts under Izzo.
It was Duke’s third home loss since 2000, but it was second in the last two seasons after a 85-83 defeat from Stephen F. Austin last November. There were no fans at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Tuesday’s match, but that doesn’t detract from Izzo’s victory.
“I know one thing: I’m not going to label this as a star,” he said. “It was a good victory for us against a good team, a great program and a very, very well trained team.”
Rocket Watts led by Michigan State with 20 points, but both Joey Hauser and Malik Hall doubled and Aaron Henry finished with 14 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks and 3 assists.
“For the things he did for me, and every time I had my back behind closed doors, in my face, not in my face, that’s the least I could do for him,” Henry said. “It helped in more ways than getting the win tonight. I really appreciate that. I’m happy with the coach and his career and I’m glad I’m one of the players who won here at Cameron. It’s a hard place to win from what I mean, with fans or without fans, and it was still hard. But I’m happy it happened and I’m happy I was able to do it for him. ”
Michigan State turned it seven times in the first 10 minutes, helping Duke get light baskets for early driving. But after the Spartans settled down and stopped the blue devils from gaining transition points, the momentum shifted to the state of Michigan. Duke was unable to score consistently against the set defense, and the Spartans increased the pressure at the end of the attack, becoming more aggressive with the ball and attacking the basket.
Duke scored just 5 from a 3-point distance to 23, and in the second half the only way to score a goal was Matthew Hurt, who finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds.
“I thought we made a huge jump from our first game,” said Mike Krzyzewski, Duke’s coach. “We just have to improve. I’m not disappointed in my team. They came to win and they didn’t. But we lost from a very good team.”
The state of Michigan got a stronger-than-expected start after saying goodbye to All-American point defender Cassius Winston and draft team Xavier Tillman. The returnees made progress, especially Hall and Watts, while the return of Joshua Langford and the arrival of Hauser brought experience.
And on Tuesday, the appearance of sophomore Julius Marble brought a change. Marble played just six minutes in the first two games, but came off the bench to score 12 points against Duke in 12 minutes.
“This is another guy I’m so proud of,” Izzo said. “Somehow he got through the storm. We hired him on the scout team … And he took full advantage of it. It was a surprise? No. I saw this for two weeks. He’s smart, athletic, there’s one thing I like; tough.”
ESPN David Hale contributed to the report.