Amile Jefferson had for No. 5 Duke.NEW YORK -- Almost everybody in Madison Square Garden was impressed with the game
Nobody appreciated it more than Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Jefferson set career highs with 24 points and 15 rebounds to lead Duke to an 84-74 victory over No. 21 Florida on Tuesday night in the Jimmy V Classic.
"Amile played one of the great games," Krzyzewski said. "God bless him. He was fantastic."
Luke Kennard scored 29 points and freshman Jayson Tatum added 22 for the Blue Devils (9-1), whose only loss was to Kansas on this same court in the Champions Classic in November.
Krzyzewski also praised Kennard, who established his career high for points in the previous game against Maine.
"Luke's played fantastic," Krzyzewski said. "When you get 29 points on 16 shots -- what he'd have, 35 against Maine? Really efficient. He's come through for us beautifully. He's starting to put it together a little bit."
Twice in the final 8 minutes the Gators (7-2) got within seven points but both times Kennard scored to hold off Florida, once with a 3-pointer and again with a long layup off a steal.
"Down the stretch in that second half, every time they made a play, we did a great job of coming back and taking the air out of the ball, using 20 seconds and then getting up a good shot," Jefferson said. "Whether it was Luke, whether it was Jayson, whether it was G (Grayson Allen) penetrating and finding somebody, our guys did an amazing job of never splintering."
The 6-foot-9 Jefferson, who also blocked four shots, was 11 for 14 from the field. Kennard went 11 of 16, including 5 for 7 from 3-point range.
Kevaughn Allen led Florida with 21 points, and John Egbunu had nine points and 12 rebounds.
"They were a better team tonight," Florida coach Mike White said. "I thought our guys were really jacked up for the opportunity. I thought Amile Jefferson was amazing, just absolutely amazing."
Duke closed the first half with an 8-2 run -- Jefferson and Tatum had four points each -- for a 41-31 lead.
Allen, Duke's preseason All-America, had an off night shooting (2 for 10, including 1 for 5 on 3s) but he had eight assists to go with his six points.
"I thought Jayson came out tonight and did an amazing job of just letting it all out," Jefferson said. "Luke is the smoothest player in the country. So playing with these guys has been so much fun so far."
Duke: Krzyzewski is 29-10 at Madison Square Garden as Duke coach. ... The Blue Devils lead the all-time series with Florida 13-4. ... Jefferson was coming off a career-high 20 points against Maine. He had 14 rebounds four times. ... Duke had five double-figure scorers in seven of its nine games coming in. The Blue Devils had three against Florida, all over 20 points.
"I think we're really close if we're not there," Kennard said. "I think we really, really shared the ball well tonight on the offensive end because we have a lot of scorers. We have a lot of playmakers and a lot of scorers and the way we can share the ball, it's pretty special. Not a lot of teams have that many scorers on a team and when we share the ball and get open shots, we can be really dangerous on the offensive end."
Florida: In the first eight games of the season, six different players led the Gators in scoring. ... White was 3 years old when Krzyzewski started coaching at Duke. ... Because of renovations at the O'Connell Center on the Florida campus, the Gators won't play their first home game until Dec. 21 against Arkansas-Little Rock. All their games are either on the road or at neutral sites until then.
Throughout both games, videos were shown during timeouts featuring cancer survivors or those whose life has been affected by the disease. The Garden also showed Jim Valvano's speech at the ESPYs when he announced the formation of the V Foundation for Cancer Research. The crowd of 15,294 broke into a prolonged round of applause when it ended with Valvano's now famous "Don't give up. Don't ever give up."
"I miss him," Krzyzewski said of Valvano. "I'm glad he had the vision to get this thing started."
Both teams played solid man-to-man defense and it was such a halfcourt game that there were only 18 fast-break points, 10 for Florida.
Kevin White, the athletic director at Duke, is the father of Florida coach Mike White.
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