Duke Holds Off Pesky St. John's
The second-year small forward started the ballgame and played nearly all 40 minutes, scoring a game-high 20 points against the Blue Devils. Kennedy's gritty effort was not enough however - and neither was the Red Storm's rebounding advantage, lead in fast break points, and points in the paint - as St. John's (12-14) fell to Duke in a 76-69 slugfest at Madison Square Garden.
Duke freshman Elliott Williams, who Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said added some "verve" in recent practices, made just his second start of the season and he was the early spark Duke needed on the defensive end, pressuring the ball and improving the team's speed. Gerald Henderson scored 19 points for the Blue Devils as the starters scored all but four of their points.
The Blue Devils (21-5) looked more like the team that has spent the entire season in the top 10, including one week at No. 1, hitting 3-pointers and converting turnovers into points. Jon Scheyer had 18 points, Kyle Singler scored 15 and Lance Thomas added nine for Duke.
The Blue Devils finished 7-for-15 on 3s (46.7 percent), the first time since Jan. 24 they shot better than 33 percent from beyond the arc. They were 3-for-16 in a loss to Boston College on Sunday.
With Singler and Scheyer both going 2-for-3 on 3s in the first half and St. John's matching its season average for a game with 14 turnovers, Duke was able to take a lead as big as 32-18 with 4:48 left and the Blue Devils led 37-26 at halftime.
They led by as many as 16 points in the second half, the last time at 60-44 on a jumper by Thomas with 10:09 to play. St. John's closed to 74-69 on two free throws by sophomore point guard Malik Boothe with 15.6 seconds to play, but Scheyer made two free throws to seal it.
"We just didn't get some shots down," said St. John's coach Norm Roberts, whose team shot 54 percent (27-for-50), its second-best mark of the season.
Paris Horne, St. John's leading scorer with a 15.0 average, was coming off a 23-point effort that included a career-high six 3-pointers against Marquette. He was held to seven points in a foul-plagued 20 minutes, only the fifth time this season he didn't reach double figures.
St. John's returns to Queens on Sunday to host local BIG EAST rival Seton Hall. In the last contest of the season on campus at Carnesecca Arena, Red Storm senior Tomas Jasiulionis and the STJ senior managers will be honored in a ceremony before the game, which tips off at 5 p.m. (SNY-TV).
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