His actions resulted in a suspension, so Grayson Allen had to choose his words wisely.
He was greeted in the visiting locker room of the Greensboro Coliseum by a swarm of media dying to know: why? Why, again, would Allen intentionally trip an opponent. He did it twice last season and a third incident came in Duke’s 72-61 win over Elon on Wednesday.
Allen, a junior guard, got wrapped with Elon’s Steven Santa Ana late in the first half. Allen raised his right foot as the two swung around, and Santa Ana fell over it. Allen was subsequently issued Duke’s second technical foul of the year.
Duke’s preseason ACC player of the year, a team captain, appeared to immediately know that he made a mistake. He lost his composure after the technical at the 4:15 mark of the first. An irate Allen slammed his hands on the empty seat next to him on the bench and shouted, Duke assistant Jon Scheyer grabbing his clinched fists to calm him. Duke had an eight-point lead but wound up trailing, 35-34, at the half.
Earlier this year, Allen appeared on ESPN and proclaimed his immature days of tripping were behind him. He said he wouldn’t do it again.
“Talking about what led up to it is just an excuse. There’s no excuse for it,” a tearful Allen said after the game. He took an 11-second pause before addressing the first media question, which he pushed through a long sigh after a dejected “Um.”
“I made a really bad play,” Allen said, before apologizing for his actions.
Further repercussions weren’t announced until Thursday morning, when coach Mike Krzyzewski released a statement saying he was suspending Allen from competition indefinitely. Duke opens its ACC season at Virginia Tech on New Year’s Eve.
Allen’s previous tripping episodes came against league opponents last season on Feb. 8 (Louisville) and Feb. 26 (Florida State).
Wednesday night, Krzyzewski said he’d handled the past incidents correctly and would continue to do so without being pressured to suspend the 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Jacksonville, Florida.
Allen, in a meeting with Krzyzewski, Santa Ana and Elon coach Matt Matheny, said he apologized for his actions, but that wasn’t enough.
“I’m a teacher and a coach, and I’m responsible for that kid,” Krzyzewski said. “I know him better than anybody, and so to think that it’s the last thing that’s said about it to him is wrong. We lost our composure. What Grayson did was unacceptable. I thought our whole team lost our composure. We got distracted.”
The Blue Devils (12-1) allowed Elon (7-5) to shoot 50 percent from the three-point line, while going 3-of-14 (21.4 percent) themselves from that area. They were outrebounded by the Phoenix and trailed at the break, even after committing just one turnover by halftime.
Krzyzewski said the incident flattened the team at the time.
It took 30 minutes before the locker room opened up for media after Allen’s meeting with Santa Ana and the coaches.
“I don’t plan on doing it again, but I made another mistake, and I have to try to be better again just like I’ve tried to be better in past years,” Allen said through another long sigh.
Allen didn’t offer an exact explanation for his third tripping incident; he said he was an emotional player.
“In that moment, I guess he lost his head,” said Allen’s fellow captain Amile Jefferson. “It was a big-time game, it was a real close game, and things happen.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan