Believe it or not, Pitt wouldn’t go away.
So with 52 seconds left, Grayson Allen made it stop for good.
The Duke junior guard watched his 3-point try soar toward the iron to beat the shot-clock buzzer, the ball eventually bouncing in for the Blue Devils’ last push of their 72-64 win over the Panthers on Saturday.
It was coach Mike Krzyzewski’s first game back after missing a month recovering from back surgery, and his energy was infectious in a game featuring eight lead changes and six ties. There were lots of smiles, lot of yells and lots of energy in his return, which became his 500th career victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Allen, who led No. 21 Duke (18-5, 6-4 ACC) with 21 points and six assists, made five of Duke’s final nine baskets – four were 3s.
One: I told him to keep shooting. Two: I believe in him.
Mike Krzyzewski on Grayson Allen
His last triple gave Duke a 66-59 lead, and he crouched down sticking his tongue out after seeing it fall through. Duke managed an 18-2 run that included four 3-pointers, but Pitt (12-11, 1-9) was still within two possessions with fewer than two minutes to play.
“I was crouching down trying to influence the ball from way back to get it to go in,” said Allen, whose voice was a tad hoarse because of all the yelling in Krzyzewski’s return. “Thankfully, that one went in because we needed that one. I got a little bit of a shooter’s roll on that one. It was just exciting because the time of game and how close it was.”
Duke led by as many as 10 points in the second half, after the score was tied at 28 at halftime. Pitt kept it close until the late Allen 3 broke open a four-point game and a two-minute scoring drought. Duke was up 10 in the final 30 seconds of the game after Allen iced both ends of a one-and-one.
Allen had just three points at halftime after going 1-of-3 from deep.
“I think that’s just the mindset that we have playing for coach,” Allen said. “It’s if we miss four in a row, the next four gotta go in. That’s what he tells us.”
Krzyzewski praised the “excellence” of Michael Young (24 points) and Jamel Artis (17 points), the duo that tried to keep Pitt afloat. A Young basket tied the score at 41 with 10:08 showing in the second, and Pitt’s last lead (43-42) was after an Artis jumper at 9:48.
Pitt got within three after Artis’ three-point play with 3:10 on the clock.
Allen’s late surge helped Duke overcome its dry stretches from earlier in the game. The Blue Devils ended the first half without a make in the last 4 minutes, 55 seconds. They missed eight straight shots to bridge the two halves and went on to miss another six consecutive in the second.
They shot 53 percent from behind the arc in the second.
“There’s one thing that we did against their zone that was going to get (Allen) an open shot if we did it right,” Krzyzewski said, addressing the barrage of late Allen 3s. “It took us two exchanges to get it right, and then we got it right. God love him. He’s a helluva player. Our guys want to get the guy, just like Luke against Wake, get the guy who is shooting.
“The perimeter is really coming together like that.”
Duke finished with 19 assists on 25 made shots.
Pitt came in averaging nine made 3-pointers a game, and Duke held it to 2-of-14 from long range.
The Blue Devils assisted their first four baskets, while their defense forced turnovers throughout the game. Pitt’s first two offensive possessions ended with a miss at the shot-clock buzzer and a shot-clock violation, its first of two on the day.
Duke grad student forward Amile Jefferson (15 points, nine rebounds) came away with a game-high five blocks, including one on Shelton Jeter down the stretch. Duke freshman Jayson Tatum (12 points, six rebounds) secured the defensive rebound that led to the late Allen 3 with less than a minute remaining.
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan