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Courtesy: Duke Athletics
Luke Kennard
Kennard, No. 5 Duke Top Tennessee State 65-55
Courtesy: Associated Press
Release: 12/19/2016
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DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke finally had all the players that made the Blue Devils the top-ranked team in the preseason -- except that, for most of the night, they didn't play like it.

Luke Kennard scored 24 points and No. 5 Duke beat Tennessee State 65-55 on Monday in the college debut of touted freshman Harry Giles.

Freshman forward Jayson Tatum added 14 points and Grayson Allen finished with 12 for the Blue Devils (11-1), who plodded through 30 mostly sluggish minutes before pulling away from a pesky Tigers team that threatened to spoil a big night for Giles.

"This game was a learning experience for us," Kennard said. "We can't take anything for granted. We've got to play each and every game like it's the biggest game of the year. ... I just don't think we were really ready to play. ... Our energy wasn't there, our enthusiasm wasn't there, and we just didn't really have one guy that's bringing us all the energy, and we really needed that tonight."

Tennessee State led 36-34 on Wayne Martin's jumper with 15 minutes left. Duke countered with a 25-3 run highlighted by five 3-pointers -- including two by Kennard on consecutive possessions after he was left completely unguarded -- to take a 59-39 lead.

Darreon Reddick and Tahjere McCall scored 14 points apiece for the Tigers (8-3).

Amile Jefferson had a career-best 18 rebounds for Duke, which finally got Giles on the floor for the first time. One of the nation's top recruits, he missed his senior season in high school with torn knee ligaments in his right knee and then missed the first 11 games at Duke after having his left knee scoped in October.

"First game, that was just shaking the rust off and getting the kinks out," Giles said. "I think each day, each game, each practice, I'll get better."

Duke: The impact of Giles' return went far beyond his meager line in the boxscore -- no points, no rebounds, and 0-for-1 shooting in 4 first-half minutes. For the first time, the Blue Devils had the full complement of star freshmen that made them No. 1 in the preseason polls.

But Duke shot a season-worst 37 percent and finished just 19 of 32 from the free throw line while establishing a season-low scoring total by 10 points. The previous low was 75, both in the loss to Kansas and the win against Rhode Island.

"We're in October, not December, with our team," coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Tennessee State: This was the second time in nine days that the Tigers threw a scare into the host team at an historic Atlantic Coast Conference venue, after taking North Carolina State to overtime in the Wolfpack's first game at renovated Reynolds Coliseum. Tennessee State's three losses have all come on the road against Power 5 programs, with the other defeat coming at Vanderbilt.

"Hopefully, we realized that if we play as a team, we currently feel like we can play with anybody in the country, but we need to try to get to the point where we can consistently beat high-level teams," coach Dana Ford said.

Kennard has scored 20 or more points in four of his last five games. ... Jefferson was averaging 17.8 points and 12.3 rebounds during his last four games. His rebounding numbers went up but his scoring numbers fell -- he finished with five points on 2-of-7 shooting and was just 1 for 8 from the foul line.

All eyes were on Giles, who made his long-awaited Duke debut when he checked in during a timeout with 11:27 left in the first half with the crowd chanting his first name. Those chants died down, then picked back up when the Blue Devils broke the huddle. He clearly isn't in game shape yet, and his only shot -- a jumper from the right wing over Ken'Darrius Hamilton in his first 15 seconds on the floor -- was way too strong.

Duke: The Blue Devils play Elon on Wednesday night at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Tennessee State: The Tigers have eight days before their next game, a home date with Division III Covenant on Dec. 27.