Luke Kennard and his 34 points might have been the primary reason Duke won at Wake Forest on Saturday. But he wasn’t the only reason.
During the Blue Devils’ 14-2 run in the last four minutes of the game, it was junior guard Grayson Allen’s 3-pointer from the wing with about 52 seconds left that brought Duke within one, 83-82.
No. 17 Duke (16-5, 4-4 ACC) had been slowly making a comeback during that stretch, but when Allen knocked down the shot, it became real. The Demon Deacons players who were talking to him had nothing more to say. The fans who were booing Allen every time he touched the ball were now silent.
All that could be heard in Lawrence Joel Coliseum were the group of Duke fans that made the 1 1/2 hour trip from Durham to Winston-Salem.
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“A shot like that kind of shifts the momentum in our favor,” Allen said. “Especially in an away game like that. Those kind of 3s silence the crowd.
“We swung the ball around, and I got it at the end, and it was just up to me to knock it down.”
Allen was aggressive from the start, either trying to find the open man or his open shot. He led the team with 11 points in the first half and started the game as the primary ball-handler. He finished with 19 points and was 5-for-11 behind the 3-point line.
The boos were plenty, and the game was chippy. Allen found himself in the middle of a couple of altercations, none of which Allen said were his fault.
He and Wake Forest’s Bryant Crawford fell to the floor on a drive midway through the second half. The two exchanged words as they were getting up and both were assessed technical fouls.
Allen said Crawford said something first.
“He did, then I said something back, and it was double tech real quick,” Allen said.
Late in the game, Allen and Crawford were going for a rebound, and Allen bumped Crawford’s arm. Players and coaches from both teams gathered around the two, creating a fray, while Allen and Crawford put their hands up to show they were trying to stay out of it.
During the altercation, Wake Forest freshman guard Brandon Childress wrapped his arms around Allen, lifted him off his feet and into the Duke chairs.
Childress was assessed a contact technical foul.
“I don’t know who did it, but I was just standing over there trying to mind my own business, and I got pushed into the stands,” Allen said. “I don’t know by who.”
When asked if he thought players like Crawford and others in the ACC are intentionally going after him, Allen said “Nah, I’m not worried about that.”
Allen’s performance against Wake was unlike many he’s had since he returned from a one-game suspension against Georgia Tech on Jan. 4. At times he’s looked timid and has deferred the ball to Jayson Tatum and Kennard.
Part of that too, has to do with Duke not having a true point guard. Those duties have primarily fallen on Allen and freshman guard Frank Jackson.
But Allen was not timid Saturday.
Allen’s 19 points against Wake were the second most he has scored since sitting out the Virginia Tech game on Dec. 31, after he tripped an Elon player on Dec. 21. He scored 23 in a 78-69 loss to Louisville on Jan. 14. Duke is 8-1 this season when Allen scores 15 or more points.
“I thought Grayson was terrific,” Jeff Capel, Duke’s interim head coach, said after the game. “He goes through a lot, things happen, and he was able to keep his composure, and he came back and hit a huge 3.”
After Saturday’s win, Allen appeared jovial. He said a win like Saturday’s bodes well for the team’s confidence.
The Blue Devils were coming off of an 84-82 loss to N.C. State and their season looked as if it were on a downward spiral. The Blue Devils had lost three of their last four games and were near the bottom of the ACC standings. This past Tuesday, coach Mike Krzyzewski punished his players by not letting them go into the home locker room or wear Duke gear, according to ESPN.
And with four minutes left in Saturday’s game, the Blue Devils were down by 10. Freshman forward Tatum had fouled out, Jefferson, Giles and Allen had four fouls and Duke looked like it was on its way to another ACC loss.
But then Duke woke up. Allen hit his 3, Kennard took it from there, hitting the game-winning 3 to give the Blue Devils their first ACC road win of the season.
Duke’s schedule doesn’t get easier from here. The Blue Devils play at No. 14 Notre Dame on Monday. The Fighting Irish (17-5, 6-3), however, are coming off Saturday’s buzzer-beating loss to Georgia Tech.
Duke at Notre Dame
When: 7 p.m. Monday
Where: Joyce Center, Notre Dame, Ind.