Call him what you want, he kept Duke in the game for as long as he could.
Grayson Allen scored a game-high 23 points in the No. 7 Blue Devils’ 78-69 loss to No. 15 Louisville in Saturday’s matchup at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville. They were again without veteran forward Amile Jefferson, who sat on the bench for a second game with a bruised bone in his right foot.
Allen scored four straight points midway through the second half as Duke battled to stay afloat against a Louisville team that shot nearly 60 percent in the second half. The Cardinals (15-3, 3-2 ACC) started off slow offensively before charging ahead of Duke (14-4, 2-3) after the break. They missed 16 of their first 22 shots after halftime, while Duke hit five straight following a four-point deficit at the half. Jayson Tatum sunk a big basket to end the first.
Duke only managed two assists on 11 made shots at halftime, where it trailed 34-30 after a damaging run by Louisville.
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After a Donovan Mitchell 3-pointer from the right wing, the Cardinals scored the next four straight baskets, five of the next six. That included back-to-back 3s.
Duke’s first two baskets of the second half were assisted. Allen and Luke Kennard (17 points) each had three assists.
Facing a pack of Louisville fans who had choice words for Allen, he knocked down two free throws for a 37-37 tie with 16 minutes left. He scored the four straight baskets after that, but Louisville always had an answer. The teams traded baskets, and the Cardinals took advantage of Duke’s 18 turnovers, especially down the stretch. They scored 13 points off turnovers, a majority coming in the second.
Louisville scored on back-to-back steals for a 43-37 lead with 15:51 left, and the first time Duke lost the ball, Allen was in the middle of the scuffle.
Three straight baskets from Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell down the stretch – including two 3-pointers – sucked the steam from a Duke team that could have trailed by double digits throughout.
With Jefferson still seated, Javin DeLaurier saw his first minutes since Dec. 10. Chase Jeter and Marques Bolden were other post subs. Though Jeter was a sophomore, it left Duke’s front court inexperienced. Freshman Harry Giles started in the middle.
Louisville scored 36 points inside and relied on its jump shooters to maintain momentum. The Cards also fed 7-footer Anas Mahmoud, who finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. His putback dunk with 2:51 to go provided a back-breaking double-digit lead.
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan