When Duke needed him the most, senior Grayson Allen put the team on his back

Duke guard Grayson Allen (3) drives on Michigan State guard Joshua Langford during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, in Chicago.
Duke guard Grayson Allen (3) drives on Michigan State guard Joshua Langford during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, in Chicago. AP

When Grayson Allen told reporters “he felt he was ‘kind of hot’ from 3,” following No. 1 Duke’s 88-81 win over No. 2 Michigan State on Tuesday night, even his coach had to laugh.

“You were hot,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told him as he sat next to him at the postgame news conference.

Allen scored a career-high 37 points on 11-for-20 shooting and was 7-for-11 from behind the 3-point line. Two of those 3-pointers came during the game’s final 2 1/2 minutes, including a dagger with just 70 seconds remaining.

The crowd at the United Center in Chicago for the Champions Classic went wild.

“For me, when I get a few open looks, the basket gets bigger,” Allen said. “And Trevon (Duval) with 10 assists, and these first three games, he’s been finding me. I don’t even have to call for the ball some times, he just knows where I am.”

On a night, when their leading scorer went down with an injury and two of their star freshman had off nights, Allen and Duval carried the Blue Devils (3-0) offensively against Michigan State (1-1).

Duval had 17 points, 10 assists and six steals. He was more aggressive than normal, driving at almost every opportunity. Often he would get past his defender and either lay it up or find an open teammate.

Duval said he felt he needed to be more aggressive after freshman forward Marvin Bagley III went down. Bagley suffered a scratch under his eye and sat out the rest of the game.

“I felt as if I could get to the paint pretty much whenever I wanted to, to draw the defense,” Duval said. “And whenever the defense came and helped out, Grayson and Gary (Trent Jr.) was there for the shot, and I tried to finish the play.”

Before Tuesday’s game, it was well-known that Duke had a talented team. The Blue Devils came into the season ranked No. 1, mostly because they had the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class. But the game against Michigan State, a veteran team, and the second-ranked team in the country, would be a true test.

And when Bagley, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, went down, it tested them even further.

Three nights prior, it was Allen’s teammates who picked him up when he had somewhat of an off night against Utah Valley. He scored only five points in the first half of that game. But when his team needed him on this day, he was there, hitting shots time and time again. He played all 40 minutes of the game.

“It was unreal,” sophomore forward Javin DeLaurier said of Allen’s performance. “It was unbelievable. It was one of those things, where every time it left his hands you kind of expected it to go in. Every time it goes up, I’m like, ‘oh, that’s three points.’ 

Michigan State sophomore guard Miles Bridges heated up in the second half of Tuesday’s game. He scored 16 second-half points, including four 3-pointers. But each time he scored, Duval usually found Allen with the answer.

“You want to keep calling plays for him, and I felt like I was coaching Redick,” Krzyzewski said. Then he turned to Allen, smiled and said “thank you.”

“Grayson was fantastic. He was not good, he was fantastic tonight,” Krzyzewski said.

Jonathan M. Alexander: 919-829-4822, @jonmalexander