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No. 5 Duke smashes UNLV 94-45

By Steve Guiremand, The Sports Xchange
No. 5 Duke smashes UNLV 94-45
Duke Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

LAS VEGAS -- Duke is finally getting healthy. And that could spell bad news for the rest of the college basketball world.

For the first time in five weeks, the Blue Devils had a full squad available to practice on Friday. It also marked the first time in that span that All-America guard Grayson Allen, who had been slowed by a turf toe injury, practiced.

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The Blue Devils, behind a career-high 34 points by Allen, responded by blowing out UNLV, 94-45, for their eighth straight victory Saturday afternoon in the fourth annual MGM Grand Showcase at T-Mobile Arena.

Sophomore guard Luke Kennard finished with 16 points, freshman forward Jayson Tatum added 13 points and senior forward Amile Jefferson had his 14th career double-double with 10 points and a game-high 12 rebounds for the Blue Devils, who shot 58.7 percent from the floor and never trailed in the contest.

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Allen led the way, finishing 12 of 16 from the floor, including 6 of 9 from 3-point range in 29 minutes. Defensively, Duke (10-1) forced 21 turnovers, including 13 in the first 14 minutes, and held UNLV to a season-low 29.6 shooting. The Blue Devils also finished with a 40-29 rebounding edge and a huge 50-16 advantage in points in the paint.

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"We did a lot of good things today," Krzyzewski said after his 1,053rd college coaching victory. "The main thing we did was we were passionate about playing today. I really liked that. And Grayson was Grayson."

Allen entered the contest averaging 15.9 points but was shooting just 35.7 percent from the floor. But he put on a dazzling shooting display against the Runnin' Rebels and also mixed in a few dunks to finish off strong drives to the basket.

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"He was finally healthy today," Krzyzewski said. "Hopefully we can keep him that way. ... He's played in all the games but he never did anything (in practice), including shooting, except for the day of the game. He's starting to get better, and he had a really good practice (Friday). Today was the first day he could really extend and make the athletic plays that he can make but couldn't make with the injury."

Krzyzewski said freshmen stars Tatum and 6-foot-11 Marques Bolden (six points) practiced for just the second time in five weeks on Friday due to injuries. And he hinted another prize freshman recruit, 6-10 forward Harry Giles, is getting closer to playing after being sidelined for 13 months with an ACL injury.

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It was the first meeting between the schools since Duke upset No. 1 ranked UNLV 79-77 in the semifinals of the 1991 Final Four in Indianapolis. That meeting came one year after the Runnin' Rebels won their only national championship with a 103-73 victory over the Blue Devils.

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Runnin' Rebel fans have been anxiously awaiting another shot at Duke since the painful 1991 loss. Saturday's contest was a classic example of be careful of what you wish for.

"I was just disappointed that we weren't able to put our best foot forward," first-year UNLV coach Marvin Menzies said. "It's always tough to lose but it's even tougher to swallow if you don't play as well as you can."

Still, Menzies acknowledged even a great showing by his squad might not have been enough to defeat Duke on Saturday.

"We ran into if not the best ... that's a Final Four team there," Menzies said.

Allen, who came in shooting just 35.7 from the field while battling turf toe, had 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the floor as Duke bolted to a 20-3 lead in the first seven minutes. He had 15 points by halftime, including a vicious tomahawk dunk on the end of a drive that worked the crowd into a frenzy.

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UNLV (5-4), which trailed by as many as 21 points in the first half, hit four 3-pointers in the final five minutes to close within 42-26 at halftime.

But Duke opened the second half with a 7-0 run to quickly push the lead back up to 23 at 49-26 and then blew the game open with an 18-0 run capped by a Kennard 3-pointer to make it 71-32 with 10:31 to go.

NOTES: The matchup was the first college basketball game ever at the new 18,000-seat T-Mobile Arena, future home of the NHL Vegas Golden Nights, as part of the fourth annual MGM Grand Showcase, which benefits Coaches vs. Cancer. The arena, located next to the New York-New York Hotel & Casino, opened in April but has primarily hosted concerts. The sellout crowd of 19,107 was the largest to watch a UNLV game since 1991. ... Duke G Grayson Allen has now scored 20 or more points in a game 24 times in his career. The Blue Devils are 20-4 in those games. ... Sophomore G Jalen Poyser led UNLV in scoring with 16 points, including 4-of-8 3-pointers, but also had five turnovers.

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