Duke was getting there.
After Harry Giles’ debut Monday, the Blue Devils were a step closer to being the team they thought they’d be in October.
But Grayson Allen’s suspension has knocked them back a bit. The junior guard, a returning starter and team captain, was suspended indefinitely for intentionally tripping an Elon player in Duke’s 72-61 win over the Phoenix Wednesday. Duke announced his suspension Thursday morning.
It is the third time Allen has tripped an opponent, with two coming last season.
“All these things coming in (this season) and what you think was going to happen would be like, ‘holy mackerel, we’re going to be unbelievable,’ ” coach Mike Krzyzewski said Thursday. “And then all of a sudden, five of our six freshmen have been injured. And, the best player we had coming back has played injured and then he has a situation last night. All of these things – how did that happen?”
Allen let his team down in more ways than a technical foul that allowed Steven Santa Ana three free throws late in the first half. The incident, which ended with Allen throwing a tantrum on the bench before burying his face in a towel, knocked some steam out of a Duke team on its way to rolling over Elon; up by eight at the time of the technical, the Blue Devils (12-1) trailed by one at the half.
Before the latest setback, everyone had been able to practice at once, including Giles. Allen was coming off a foot injury that limited him the early part of the season. His first time practicing in about five weeks was a day before Dec. 10’s game against UNLV, when he poured in a career-high 34 points on six 3-pointers.
Duke has had four different starting lineups and played the early part of the year without three of its star freshmen. Jayson Tatum (foot) and Marques Bolden (lower leg) didn’t return to the Blue Devils until Dec. 3 against Maine. They were both fatigued after their respective debuts, but Tatum has settled in. He’s a tough shooter to defend and is averaging 15.4 points and 7.4 rebounds. He had four blocks against Elon.
The Blue Devils are still itching to find out how much better they can be if everyone is healthy and involved.
For at least the ACC opener against Virginia Tech on New Year’s Eve, they’ll have to wait for one of their best players – again. Allen started in all 12 games he’s appeared in this season, resting when Duke played Maine.
“I don’t have all the answers on what the plan is,” Krzyzewski told The News & Observer. “Ultimately, success is our goal, not to get bogged down by the things that knock you back right now.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan