DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said in his postgame press conference that his team is just not the same without injured guard Trevor Keels.
But on Tuesday night against defensive-minded Clemson, Coach K and the Devils got some help from a couple of unlikely sources in the Devils hard-fought 71-69 win over the Tigers.
“The two kids that kept us in the game were Joey (Baker) and Bates (Jones),” said Krzyzewski. “I mean they were outstanding.”
Baker and Jones combined for 16 points, with all five of Jones’s points coming in the opening stanza. The two teams were tied at 36 after 20 minutes of play.
Duke star freshman Paolo Banchero found himself in foul trouble and only played a few minutes in the first half but came alive in the second half, finishing with a game-high 19 points including two late baskets that sealed the win.
Banchero’s second-half heroics may not have been possible had Baker not stepped up his play. Baker hit three three-pointers in the first half and scored on a driving layup to give the Blue Devils the lead with 2:15 left. The Fayetteville senior came through when his team needed him most.
“He brings enthusiasm every day at practice and makes sure none of us are slacking,” said Banchero of Baker. “He’s just a leader, he’s not scared to make plays down the stretch so that’s what he did.”
During his career at Duke, Baker has been a role player. On this night his team needed more from him, and he delivered.
“It was good we were able to get the win and I was able to make some plays that impacted us winning and so, I’m happy about that,” said Baker.
Duke (16-3, 6-2 ACC) will now embark on a three-game road swing beginning Saturday at Louisville. Tip-off at the KFC Yum! Center is set for high noon.