After its loss to Kansas, Duke wanted to emphasize rebounding.
In the three games since then, a last-second 77-75 setback in New York on Nov. 15, the Blue Devils grabbed 113 rebounds, with 81 on the defensive end, led by grad student forward Amile Jefferson. He’s been averaging a double-double this season.
Since this past weekend in Uncasville, Conn., one that ended with the Blue Devils winning the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament championship, they placed the emphasis on sharing the ball, a charge junior Grayson Allen is helping to lead.
He played limited this past weekend with a toe issue, giving the explosive guard an eye for other ways to contribute.
Thus, he shared.
Allen passed out a game-best six assists in Duke’s 88-67 win over William & Mary on Wednesday at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Sophomore guard Luke Kennard also dished six in a balanced effort that featured five double-figure scorers for the sixth time this season. Freshman Frank Jackson dropped 19, his third time as the team’s leading scorer in two starts.
I think we really emphasized sharing the ball. After our big weekend in Connecticut, it really showed us that we can share the ball very well as a group. That’s what we did tonight.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski after the tournament title win said Allen had one of the best passing games of his 77-game career.
Something carried over in Duke’s first of a four-game home stretch.
“I know where guys are going to be when I drive,” said Allen, who finished with 17 points on 4-of-11 shooting, 6-of-6 from the free throw line. “I’m going to keep getting better as I watch more film with (assistant) coach (Jon) Scheyer and Coach K and just keep working at that. I know where guys are going to be when I drive, just reading the helpside and even dumping off to the bigs there.”
At the end of the first quarter Wednesday, Allen dumped it off to big man Antonio Vrankovic, and Vrankovic tipped it in at the buzzer for a 46-30 halftime lead for some much-needed momentum of a team that wouldn’t go away. Vrankovic was one of five bench players to see action against William & Mary (2-2), a quick-shooting team that was limited to seven of 21 on 3-pointers.
Allen was one of five players to finish scoring in double-figures, a sixth straight time for Duke (5-1).
The Tribe’s Paul Rowley smiled after hitting one of his three from long near the end of the first, but Allen answered with a triple of his own.
In the second half, after William & Mary started a mini run, Allen almost fired a three-point try. Instead, he found Jackson for a 63-44 Blue Devils lead with 13:28 showing. Allen sank a long two on the next possession.
“God bless him. He’s a stud,” Krzyzewski said about Allen. “He’s been a warrior, but we gotta keep playing. We gotta keep trying to win and get better. He was healthier today than he was, especially against Rhode Island. Against Rhode Island, believe me, 30 minutes before the game, I didn’t think he’d be able to play. He said, ‘I’m playing,’ and he did and he guarded E.C. Matthews and Matthews had nine points.
“It’s a nice kid to have on your team.”
Allen was the preseason ACC player of the year pick and last year’s leading scorer. He’s also helped on the boards, as Duke had called on its guards to rebound with the absence or limited big men.
Against William & Mary, Kennard had eight, while Allen added five and Jackson four. Duke outrebounded the visitors, 39-25, and the Tribe had just four offensive boards.
“When we have those big guys back, I think our rebounding will be that much better,” Allen said. “Tonight, (William & Mary) was a team that shot quick shots and a lot of 3s, so we had to be ready for rebounds. I think that’s why tonight you see a lot of our perimeter guys with high rebounds.”
Duke will host Appalachian State Saturday and then Michigan State for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday.
Krzyzewski said there is a “light at the end of the tunnel” for when Duke’s trio of injured freshmen – Marques Bolden, Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum – will play. They were all dressed in uniform during warmups against the Tribe, but Krzyzewski said that was more mental to get them ready.
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan
Appalachian State at Duke
When: Noon Saturday
Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium