Even with a nagging toe issue, Grayson Allen carried Duke.
The junior guard’s 21 first-half points were enough to lead the game in the No. 6 Blue Devils’ 93-58 win over Appalachian State Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium, two days after Thanksgiving.
Even as the leading scorer on 6-of-9 shooting, including going 4-of-6 from deep, he still wasn’t 100 percent as he sat out much the second half with just 18 total minutes booked.
“Grayson, it’s his toe,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He just landed funny, and when that happens, it hurts. It really hurts. He looked fresher in that first half than he has the entire season.”
Allen opened the game with two 3-pointers and found sophomore Luke Kennard and senior Matt Jones for respective triples, as the Blue Devils (6-1) for the seventh time benefited from five players who finished in double figures.
Allen got there by halftime with 21, enough to top all scorers when it was all said and done – which was about midway through the second half. Duke built a 71-38 lead after starting on a 12-0 run. Jones kicked his steal up to a wide-open Kennard on a breakaway, Kennard hammering home a two-handed dunk less than 3 minutes into the second half.
Allen found a sweet spot in the right wing for a couple of 3-pointers in the first, but he was also aggressive in the paint. He crossed over App State defenders inside to add to his big scoring day, giving Duke an 18-8 lead with 14:36 in the first.
“They share the ball well. They’re very unselfish,” Krzyzewski said of his team. “Our bench has six turnovers, otherwise we would have had a 14 and 4 night. The last game was 18 and 10. They’re getting to know one another. They made some intuitive players to start the second half.”
Duke was aggressive on defense, holding App State to 33.3 percent shooting from the floor. The Mountaineers (2-3) didn’t score in the second half until the 17:31 mark, after Duke’s string of 12 points, and they went nearly 5 minutes without a field goal midway through the second.
Amile Jefferson said Krzyzewski has emphasized defensive effort in practice.
“I think the guys took that to heart,” said Jefferson, who actually led the team with five assists.
“Our guys have been really aggressive defensively,” he said. “We were trying to talk more and attack the ball.”
Duke’s guards continued their rebounding efforts. Kennard led with seven boards at the break (game-best nine in total), and the Blue Devils held the Mountaineers to nine offensive rebounds. The Blue Devils scored 16 second-chance points.
Duke established a comfortable lead after Allen’s early surge, which spread to the other four guys on the court. Jones and Jefferson both had tip-ins in the first seven minutes.
Sophomore Antonio Vrankovic saw a few meaningful minutes in the first half as one of five bench players.
Vrankovic pressured his man’s dribble, causing a bad shot. He grabbed the defensive rebound and eventually finished with a shot on the other end.
In a fun series shortly after, Jefferson splatted an App State shot on the glass, and Kennard found freshman Javin DeLaurier for an alley-oop. Frank Jackson later dumped it off to Jefferson for a dunk, giving Duke a 41-22 lead with 5:44 in the first half.
Jackson had 15 points, the freshman barreling past a defender in the first half to continue his streak of aggressive scoring.
“They focused on this game and not looking ahead,” Krzyzewski said.
Duke hosts No. 24 Michigan State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge Tuesday night.
“It’s going to be fun. We’re excited,” Jackson said. “We know that they’re going to come in here and want to win and come here and fight with us.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan