CHICAGO– Say what you want about Duke’s senior guard Grayson Allen.
Everyone else in the Atlantic Coast Conference does.
Call him a dirty player, the player everyone loves to hate. Say he likes to flop. Worse yet, say he has been under more scrutiny than any college player following numerous tripping incidents.
But don’t underestimate his talent. Allen scored a career high 37 points here last night as Duke outlasted MIchigan State, 88-81, in a 1 vs. 2 match up in the Champions Classic at the United Center. Allen shot 11 for 20, made 7 of 11 three point shots and was a perfect 8 for 8 from the line in a full 40 minutes, lifting this young, gifted 3-0 Blue Devils’ team to a huge victory that temporarily gave college basketball back the spotlight it lost when the FBI started its investigation of wide spread corruption in the sport.
“Grayson was a good shooter as a freshman,” Duke’s Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He’s become a great shooter. Almost the second coming of J.J .(Reddick). Just call a play for him and count it.”
Allen is shooting 66 percent from the three to date. If this streak continues, he should jump into the National Player of the Year conversation. Allen stepped up at the right time against the Spartans, making up for the fact Duke shot what could have been a fatal 39.5 percent as a team.
This doubleheader, which also included Kansas’ 61-59 victory over Kentucky, was originally supposed to the national coming out party for Duke’s 6-11 freshman Marvin Bagley III, the Blue Devils’ most talented player and the possible No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft. But Bagley– who entered the game averaging 24.5 points and 10 rebounds– was forced left the game after he was poked in his left eye by teammate Javier DeLaurier with 10 minutes half in the half and did not return. “It was starting to shut,” Krzyzewski said. “he was having a hard time seeing out of eye. It’s scratched. I could see it while he was out on the floor. It’s red.”
Duke would not make Bagley– who finished with 4 points and 6 rebounds in 10 minutes– available after the game. But he was in the locker room and seemed comfortable, even though his eye was still bothered. Bagley is expected to be available for Friday night’s game against Southern and should definitely play in the Phil Knight Invitational.
Duke is ridiculously talented, likely more talented than the freshmen-dominated 2015 team that won Krzyzewski’s fifth national title. Bagley, freshman point guard Trevon Duval, freshman forward Wendell Carter Jr. and freshman guard Gary Trent Jr. are all future NBA first round picks.
But this game belonged to Allen, who may have played his best game to date in a Duke uniform.
Allen could have left after his junior year, but he came back to campus because he realized he had some growing up to do before making the quantum leap to the NBA.
“As the only senior, I played 90 more games than the other four guys,” he said. “It’s up to me to be the leader. With all the talent we do have, when we put it together it shows how good we can be.”
It should be easier for Allen this season, with Duval– who had 17 points and 10 assists– on the court. “He knows where I am at all times,” Allen said.”He gets me easy looks. As a shooter, when I make those first few, the basket starts to look bigger.”
Allen made two key late game threes as Krzyzewski improved his record against Michigan State’s Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo to 11-1.
The Blue Devils dominated the preseason Big Ten favorite in three specific areas, grabbing 25 offensive rebounds, scoring 35 points in the paint and forcing the Spartans into 17 turnovers to neutralize a breakout 19 point, 7 rebound, 3 blocked shot performance by 6-11 freshman center Jaren Jackson Jr. and 19 points, 5 blocks, 4 assists and 5 rebounds from 6-7 sophomore Miles Bridges.
Both these teams could meet again in March Madness.