The best medicine for Grayson Allen’s flu was a little tender loving care from mom.
“Thankfully I have a great mom,” he said after scoring a career-high 33 points in Duke’s 103-81 win over Long Beach State. “It was nice to have a mom’s care at home. I pretty much just slept for two days straight and stayed in bed.”
When asked what his mother, Sherry, did best during his recovery, Allen said, “it’s always nice when you have your meals in bed.” He also confirmed that his roommate at Duke, Matt Jones, was not providing the same service.
But Jones certainly noticed that Allen was sick right before Duke’s holiday break, with the worst of it coming on the Blue Devils’ trip to New York for their 77-75 overtime loss to Utah on Dec. 19.
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“You could tell Grayson was sick in New York,” Jones said. “He was all red and just blotchy.”
Allen could feel the lingering effects of the flu in his chest when he returned to Duke on the 26th. He was eight or nine pounds lighter than he was at full strength – ”About what I was in high school,” he said with a laugh. He needed Monday’s game against Elon to build his legs and stamina back up into playing shape. And in the second half Wednesday’s victory over Long Beach State, Allen finally came back to life.
Allen scored 24 of his career-high 33 points in the final 20 minutes, shooting 7-for-9 from the field and 9-for-11 from the free-throw line in the second half. As a team, Duke shot 65.6 percent from the field in the second half after struggling to find any type of offensive flow in the opening period.
“I felt I could really penetrate the middle,” Allen said of the 49ers’ 2-3 zone. “And if there wasn’t a kick-out, I could really attack the basket and just keep going.
“I just saw lanes to drive out there, and as the game went on I was able to see them quicker and more often.”
Allen’s return to form comes at a convenient time for the Blue Devils, as the nonconference portion of the season has now come to a close. And Duke’s NCAA-best streak of 125 consecutive home wins against nonconference opponents – which dates back to Feb. 2000 – remains intact.
In Duke’s nonconference game against Utah in Madison Square Garden, Allen couldn’t eat or sleep in the two days prior to the tip. He struggled, shooting just 3-of-18 from the floor for seven point. And the normally aggressive Allen, a career 85.8 percent free throw shooter entering Wednesday, was 0-for-2 from the line.
In spite of the way Allen felt, Krzyzewski never considered resting him against the Utes.
“If I’m sick, I want to play,” Krzyzewski said. “My mom, dad and brother showed up to work every day. As long as he is willing to do it. I’ve had guys who were sick go for 25.
“I believe in him if he’s sick or if he’s tired. I believe in him getting the job done. When we didn’t let’s learn from it. He was bad for about three or four days. It was good that we didn’t play after that.”
Allen returned home to Jacksonville, eating and laying in bed while watching a variety of Christmas movies. Once he was feeling peppier, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day activities kept him busy. So when he returned to campus, he hadn’t had the chance to do any physical activity since the Utah game.
“Just running in the first practice, you can just kind of feel it, that you haven’t done anything physical,” Allen said. “You can feel it in your chest. Just getting through that feeling the first day, the toughest part is just always pushing past that first time when you get tired. And once you push past that, you kind of get it back, and you start to feel like you’re back in shape.”
Allen scored 17 points against Elon on Monday, and he thought the short 42-hour turnaround worked in his favor because he could keep that familiar feeling of playing. Against Long Beach State, he started slow, like the rest of his teammates – it wasn’t until there was 1:52 left in the first half that Duke took a 36-35 lead, its first lead since 5-2. But the Blue Devils closed the first half on a 13-2 run, with 11 of those points coming at the free throw line, and opened the second half on a 9-2 run as the advantage grew to 51-38. At that point, Allen was feeling it.
“He either got around us, or we fouled him on the bounce,” Long Beach State coach Dan Monson said.
Allen was able to elevate for a few dunks, too, a thunderous signal to his teammates that everything was back to normal. And no one was more relieved than Jones, his roommate.
“That,” Jones said, “was a welcome sight.”