Thursday, March 8, 2018

Bagley and Allen power Duke past Notre Dame and into ACC tourney semis

Marvin Bagley III dominated Notre Dame with 33 points and 17 rebounds as Duke cruised into ACC Tournament semifinals. (Photo by David Welker/Atlantic Coast Conference, used with official permission)

By Jason Schott (@JESchott19)

BROOKLYN -- Duke, led by big performances from Marvin Bagley III and Grayson Allen, pulled away in the second half and beat Notre Dame, 88-70, in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament at Barclays Center.

Bagley led the way for Duke, with 33 points, 23 of which came in a second half in which he shot a near-perfect 11-for-12 from the field. He shot 15-for-23 overall on the night, and also dominated on the boards, collecting 17 rebounds to earn a double-double. Allen scored 23 points on the night, and 15 of them came in the first 10 minutes of the game. He shot a superb 7-of-10 on the night, including 5-of-6 from three-point range.

Duke, thanks to those 15 from Allen, raced out to a 32-19 lead, but Notre Dame would chip away at that lead, and trailed by just four points, 41-37, at halftime.

Allen said of his fast start, "You know, it was important for our team, especially in a tournament like this. You're playing in a new gym with a new ball, and it's really good for all of our guys to see some shots go in, especially early on. That really got us going offensively for the rest of the game."

"When we started pushing the ball early, we were getting very good looks, especially with Marvin running the floor, and either getting in great position or getting someone else open on the wing, and I think that got not only him going but a lot of the guards going, as well."

In the second half, Bagley dominated, as he scored 15 in the first 11 minutes to give Duke a 66-54 lead with 9:01 to play. A jumper with 6:13 remaining put the Blue Devils ahead 76-59, and Duke maintained at least a 15-point lead the rest of the way.

Bagley was asked if he felt this is the best Duke has played all season, and he said, "Absolutely. You know, we're definitely on a roll right now. Everything is -- we don't have it all figured out yet. We're still learning, one thing at a time. But I definitely think that we're getting better and we're continuing to grow as a team, and it's not a better time to grow as it is in March when we're getting into tournaments and stuff like that. It's a perfect time for us to continue to come together and play at our best."

In addition to Bagley and Allen, Duke also got a nice game out of Trevon Duval, who had 11 assists to supplement six points.

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said of the win, "We beat a really good team tonight. You know, look, I hope they get in, because I think they can beat anybody. That was a big-time game tonight. Mike has that team together the whole year, forget it; they could be -- I'm telling you, if they get in, they'll be -- they're going to beat people, and they'll have a chance. Veteran, you've got a kid, Farrell, 12 assists, one turnover, Colson, keep getting in shape. I don't know how that bubble works and that, but they're very good. And we were very good in order to beat them."

"I thought Grayson's leadership has continued to get better and better, and tonight was a great example of him being at his best. He came out as hot as a player could come out hitting shots, and then the nature of the game changed, and he didn't force anything. He was 7 for 10, 5 for 6 from threes, and no turnovers, but he was leading us throughout. And then obviously Marvin had a great game, and there were some things that -- where we could go to him and he was taking advantage of it."

"When you see Grayson, these guys say, okay, he's got it right now and go to him, you know, that's terrific. And I know it makes Marvin feel great in that regard. And Marvin is telling Grayson to shoot. And then Tre (Duval) getting 11 assists was big."

Allen was a freshman among a lot of seniors when Duke won the national championship in 2015. This year, the script has flipped, with Allen the senior leader among a bunch of freshmen for a Blue Devil team contending for a sixth national title.

Allen said of that, "That's one similarity, yeah. You know, the way we play is different. One trend that I'm seeing that is a good thing for our team is our defense at the end of the year is the best that it's been all season, and that's the same thing that happened in 2015."

"At the end of that year, by the time the tournament came around, we were playing -- we were one of the best defenses in the country, and so for this team, that's one of the things that we need to keep up is keep improving our defense, stay at it, and like Marvin said, keep playing our best basketball."

"But keep getting better. I mean, we're going to review film and get ready for the next game, but we know there's a few things we can do better both offensively and defensively, but as long as we keep clicking on the defensive side of the ball, we'll be good."

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