Grayson Allen proved his national championship game performance was no fluke, scoring 30 points in Duke's win over VCU Friday at Madison Square Garden. (Photo courtesy of USA Today)
Duke guard Grayson Allen was instrumental in helping Duke win the National Championship Game over Wisconsin last season, and he has kept on going as the new season has begun.
Allen, a freshman last season, came out of nowhere and made a name for himself as he scored 16 points in that game. That was one of five times he scored in double figures last season, and Duke won each of those games.
Allen has entered this season, with big expectations, as he was named to the Preseason All-ACC Second Team, the Jerry West Award List, Wooden Award Watch List, and was the ACC player of the Week for the opening week of the season, awarded on November 16.
Allen came out firing, as he scored 26 points in the season-opening win over Siena, and followed that up with 28 points against Bryant. The 54 points in the first two games of the season are the second-highest in an opening two games in the Coach Mike Krzyzewski era. Johnny Dawkins had 55 points in two games to open the 1983-84 season He hit a bump in the road on Tuesday against Kentucky, as he was help to six points on 2-for-11 from the field, and 1-2 on threes, in 28 minutes.
Allen said of the team's mindset after the 74-63 loss to Kentucky, "For us, it's all about moving on. There was obviously a rough film session after the Kentucky game where we talked about the improvements that need to be made and once you see that, you move on to the next game." Allen put on a show at Madison Square Garden in the 2K Classic against VCU, as his 30 points off the bench helped Duke roll to a 79-71 win. Krzyzewski turned to Allen less than four minutes into the game, and VCU had no answer. He was hitting from the outside and driving the lane with regularity, and at one point, faked out a VCU defender near midcourt on his way to a layup. Allen shot 9-for-15 and 4-for-8 on threes on his way to 30 points, and had six rebounds, three assists, and a steal.
On Friday night's game, Allen said, "For me, coming off the bench, it was nothing different than if I was starting. It's the same aggressive mindset, attacking mindset and just bringing energy to the team. Derryck (Thornton) started tonight. Derryck did a great job of leading the team and running the team as a point guard."
Allen, Derryck Thornton, and Matt Jones form a sort of Big Three for Duke, and that was on display Friday night. Thornton, the highly-touted freshman out of Findlay Prep in Nevada, averaged 5.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.0 assists in the first three games of the season. On Friday night, he showed what he is capable of as he went off for 19 points on 7-for-11 from the field, 2-3 on threes, with four rebounds and four assists. Jones, the junior guard, has averaged 15.0 points per game this year and he went for 10 points on 4-or-11 from the field, including two threes, six rebounds, and three assists.
Krzyzewski said of Allen, "Grayson didn't play well (against Kentucky) and for him to respond the way he did tonight...for him to take care of the ball and do that was sensational. Proud of my team. That was a hard-fought win and a well-earned win. I thought we played better than they did in those last 15 minutes, but they were playing better than us up until that time, but neither team outfought the other. I think it was a heck of a fight."
Allen said of Coach K, "You're always learning when you're being coached by him. There's always something new just because he has so much experience as a coach. As players, we're never going to know as much as him on the basketball court, so we're always learning from him. When we think we have experience, he has more experience, so that's just something you always have there and he's always leading us." Thornton said of Coach K, "I'm just really here trying to soak in everything Coach has for me and has planned for our team. We're learning a lot and I'm learning a lot every day, so I'm just excited to be here."
Krzyzewski said of Thornton, "What Derryck Thornton brought tonight was personality. He looked strong, he played that way and even if there was a mistake, it never rattled him. What he's doing, he's earning the respect and even more confidence of his teammates because that's something different. He brings something different to our team and it's not just being the point guard, it's not being afraid, not being into you, but really into this team. I was very impressed with that."