In March, reeling towards the end of the first half and down 30-21, Michigan State gave a champion’s response to Duke in the 2019 Elite Eight.
The Spartans’ 13-0 run gave them a 34-30 lead going into halftime and represented the counter that routinely eludes MSU against Krzyzewski-coached teams. So many times, Duke has jumped ahead against MSU and failed to look back.
Tuesday night, in this matchup, as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, senior guard Cassius Winston confidently stepped into a three on the fast break to complete a 9-1 run at the beginning of the second half, cutting the Spartans' deficit to 46-38 and giving the Breslin Center crowd one of few consolations of the night.
Then persisted the other recurring theme in the MSU-Duke chronicles: freshman forward Vernon Carey Jr., as he followed suit of many before him.
The Blue Devils ran the Spartans out of their own gym, winning 87-75 in a game that was not as close as the score indicated.
“I remember last year, even though I didn't steal the ball, Cassius was the guy stealing it on the weak side, when they tried to throw those high-low passes to (former Duke forward Zion Williamson),” junior forward Xavier Tillman said. “This year, nobody was on the weak side. They threw it up in the middle and that was it. It was just one-on-one from there and it's hard to stop a guy like that.”
The Fort Lauderdale product and former MSU target remained the constant force in the contest. He finished with 26 points, and none were bigger than his ensuing five and the shift of momentum that came with his three-point play at the expense of sophomore forward Marcus Bingham Jr.
Bingham had reason to be frustrated with the 50-50 whistle, as he held his own defending Carey, recording three blocks while scoring 13 as the sole counter to Duke’s length.
But Carey’s gem in East Lansing added insult to injury, rubbing salt in the wound that Krzyzewski exposes against Izzo, as high-profile recruits, many of which Izzo coveted, continually elect to spend a season in Durham over East Lansing. Michigan State’s recruiting defeats to Duke have repeated themselves, in the form of Jabari Parker, Gary Trent Jr., and this time, Vernon Carey Jr.
Krzyzewski was modest in victory, speaking highly of Izzo and his program after taking vengeance on his opponent’s home floor.
“We have two of the best programs in sport, not just in basketball,” Krzyzewski said. “Michigan State is the crème de la crème. We are too. There’s not one.”
Izzo’s 2-12 record against Krzyzewski suggests that, in this series, there is one, as Kenny Goins’ heroics now seem more like an outlier than a turning point in the lopsided Izzo-Krzyzewski history.
Izzo combated Krzyzewski’s suggestion, as he was honest in defeat.
“Let's get something straight. There is no mystique. They've beaten our a**,” Izzo said. “We've found a way to win a game or two here or there. There is no mystique. It's happened. It's fact. ... Different players, same coach. So the coach (has) gotta take responsibility for that.”