It wasn't always pretty.
But No. 9 Duke avoided a second straight loss Tuesday while sending No. 18 Michigan State to 1-2 start with a 74-65 win at the Champions Classic in Chicago. Duke built an 11-point halftime lead then fought back multiple Michigan State runs as freshman Caleb Foster announced his presence with a breakout game on a national stage.
With the win, Duke bounced back from a home loss to then-No. 12 Arizona Friday for a win over a top-25 team to improve to 2-1. In a game that featured as many turnovers as points (five) at the first TV timeout, the Blue Devils found their rhythm before halftime to take a 31-20 lead into the break. The Spartans, meanwhile, remained mired in the shooting woes that plagued them through a 1-1 start while shooting 2 of 13 from 3-point distance in the first half.
But they didn't fold after halftime. The Spartans maintained their pressure defense in the halfcourt to cut the Blue Devils' advantage to 35-31 in the first four minutes of the second half. When Duke built the lead back to double digits, Michigan State punched back again with an 8-0 run capped by a Tyson Walker 3-pointer to cut Duke's lead to 51-48 with 8:31 remaining.
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) November 15, 2023
But Duke responded every time Michigan State challenged while leaning on Foster and All-America hopeful Kyle Filipowski.
A 6-foot-5 guard, Foster shot 7 of 8 from the field, including 4 of 5 from 3-point distance, to lead the Blue Devils with 18 points. He hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the final 3:04 to extend Duke's lead to 68-56 and slam the door on any hope of a late Michigan State rally.
Duke's Caleb Foster came up huge in the win over Michigan State.
Foster finished with 18 points off the bench 😈 pic.twitter.com/itXMEYqcWc
— B/R Hoops (@brhoops) November 15, 2023
"Coming off the bench is something I'm not used to," Foster told ESPN after the game. "But just coming in, being ready to take shots I need to take."
Filipowski added 15 points and eight rebounds as Duke's most reliable weapon in the post against a Michigan State defense that repeatedly contested shots in the paint and closed off passing lanes.
Michigan State's season looked on the brink of spiraling out of control in the first half. After shooting 2 of 31 from 3 in their first two games that included a home loss to James Madison, the Spartans' season-long 3-point tally reached 4 of 44 by halftime.
But they finally found some success from distance in the second half while shooting 4 of 6 from 3. Walker led the way with 22 points while shooting 9 of 17 from the field and 3 of 5 from 3-point distance. Senior forward Malik Hall battled through foul trouble in an 18-point effort while shooting 7 of 11 from the field.
The rest of Michigan State's rotation continued to struggle as the Spartans shot 41.3% from the field and 6 of 19 (31.6%) from 3-point distance. Another poor showing at the free throw line (7 of 12) likewise weighed them down.
But there's something to build on from the second half in an effort that wasn't as disastrous as it threatened to be at halftime. Michigan State maintained its physical defense throughout the game before finally finding its shooting touch in the second half.
It'll hope to maintain that shooting touch in upcoming games against Butler and and Alcorn State before another showdown with a top-10 team against No. 3 Arizona on Nov. 23.