For Wolves' Jones, Duke win a family affair

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Tyus Jones (1) handles the ball against Memphis Grizzlies forward Justin Holiday (7) during the first half at FedExForum on Saturday, March 23. Justin Ford / USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Tyus Jones (1) handles the ball against Memphis Grizzlies forward Justin Holiday (7) during the first half at FedExForum on Saturday, March 23. Justin Ford / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS -- Tyus Jones’ heart was racing during a basketball game Sunday afternoon, March 24 — and he wasn’t even playing.

The Timberwolves point guard was powerless watching his school, Duke, battle it out with Central Florida in Sunday’s second-round game in the NCAA tournament. The top-seeded Blue Devils, the favorite to cut down the nets at the Final Four in Minneapolis, were pushed to the brink before edging ninth-seeded Central Florida 77-76 in the final seconds of what has to be the game of the tournament thus far.

“It was a crazy game, crazy finish. Came out with the W, that’s all that matters,” Jones said. “Whatever you’ve got to do to win, that’s all that matters. Doesn’t matter if it’s an ugly game, blowout, doesn’t matter. As long as you finish with more points than the other team, you live to see another day. That’s all you ask for.”

Jones, of course, has another reason to root for Duke this season: His brother, Tre, is the Blue Devils’ starting point guard. Tre played all 40 minutes Sunday, but his most important contribution came on the final possession.

Duke was up one point in the final seconds and needed a stop. Jones was guarding Central Florida point guard B.J. Taylor, who attacked from the wing. Taylor had drawn fouls on Jones’ teammates on drives twice earlier in the half, so Jones made it a point not to reach or be out of position.

Taylor got off a driving shot from the wing, but it bounced off the iron.

“Great defense. Great defense,” Tyus said.

At that point, it was out of Tre’s hands. As Taylor’s shot bounced off the rim, it was corralled by Central Florida star Aubrey Dawkins, who put up a tip off the glass. Dawkins finished with 32 points, but his tip went off the backboard and rolled around the rim before somehow falling off shortly before the buzzer sounded, securing Duke’s spot in the Sweet 16.

“Got lucky with the put-back falling off,” Tyus said. “It was really close. It was about as close as it can get. It felt like it hung on the rim forever. The basketball gods were with us, like coach always says. We’ll take it.”