Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski met with half of his team individually, including Grayson Allen. On the agenda: reviewing film from the previous night’s game against Kentucky.
Allen was taken aback as Krzyzewski showed him what his face looked like as he missed on drive after drive, shut down by Kentucky’s length in the paint around the rim.
“He said, ‘I can’t believe it.’ I said, ‘That’s what I’m looking at,’ ” Krzyzewski said, relaying their conversation. “Also, that’s what Kentucky is looking at. That is what your teammates are looking at. When you are an outstanding player, you win not just by what you perform, but you win by how you look and how you act. You set an environment that is conducive to winning. That’s the responsibility of your best players.”
That’s exactly what Allen did in wins Friday and Sunday in Madison Square Garden, where he set consecutive career-highs in scoring. In Duke’s 86-84 victory over Georgetown Sunday afternoon, Allen scored 32 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field. He also grabbed five rebounds and recorded four assists.
“Thirty-two points on 12 shots is crazy,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s just a crazy, crazy stat.”
Allen did this weekend what he couldn’t do in the midst of his 2-for-11 from the floor, six-point performance against Kentucky: he made adjustments. He stopped driving for just the sake of drawing contact and started trying to make shots. And he recommitted to taking jump shots, especially from behind the arc, where he was 5-for-6 Sunday, with that miss coming on an in-and-out shot with 1:30 left in the game.
In total, against both VCU and Georgetown, Allen scored 62 points and shot 66.7 percent from the floor (18-of-27), playing 75 of 80 possible minutes.
“The performance he had this weekend was unbelievable,” Amile Jefferson said of Allen. “He came back with a verve, with a toughness, with a fight.”
Both the wins over VCU and Georgetown featured Duke responding to game pressure and earning a win down the stretch in the second half. Against the Hoyas (1-3), the game wasn’t won until the clock struck zero and a potential game-winning 3-pointer from Isaac Copeland left his hand on too much of a line-drive trajectory, bouncing off the bottom of the rim.
Georgetown had the opportunity to win the game due to two missed free throws from Derryck Thornton – an aberration from the Blue Devils’ otherwise strong free-throw shooting day. Against VCU, the Blue Devils had gone a woeful 19-for-34 (55.9 percent) from the charity stripe, but that improved to a 28-of-36 mark (77.8 percent) against the Hoyas. The Blue Devils needed all of those points, too.
Thirty-two points on 12 shots is crazy. It’s just a crazy, crazy stat.
Mike Krzyzewski on Grayson Allen’s game against Georgetown
While relying on Allen counts as something old for this Duke team, Sunday’s win featured something new, too: zone defense. Briefly, late in the first half, Duke dropped back into a 2-3 zone, but in the second half, the Blue Devils extensively used a 1-3-1, with Matt Jones under the basket and either Amile Jefferson or, when he was in, Brandon Ingram at the top.
“It helped us,” Krzyzewski said. “It kept them out of the lane, out of driving. They were driving us too easy.”
Georgetown did shoot 73.3 percent (11-for-15) from 2-point range in the first half. In the second half against the zone, that number fell to 50 percent (7-for-14).
But the Blue Devils don’t win without Allen carrying the team offensively. Yes, at some point, Duke needs to provide him with more help, Krzyzewski acknowledged. But in the meantime, the Blue Devils are content to ride Allen as far as he can take them.
“I’ve leaned on my great players my whole career,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s not about coaching. It’s about allowing your great players to be great and putting them in positions where they do things that you can’t orchestrate.”