Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said senior guard Grayson Allen knows he has to perform better than he did this past Saturday in order for the Blue Devils to be a successful team.
Allen scored 8 points in 39 minutes in a 96-85 upset loss to N.C. State at PNC arena on Saturday. He attempted only nine shots and was 3-for-9 from the field. He was 1-for-4 from behind the 3-point line.
It was one of his worst performances of the season.
When asked whether it was a matter of putting him in a better position to score, or Allen looking for his shot, Krzyzewski said “most of the time, it’s primarily on a player.”
“Because all coaches – we have all good coaches in the league, and they put their players in positions to be successful,” Krzyzewski said on Monday. “And he’s not played well in these three conference games.
“And he knows it. We have confidence he will play well.”
Allen, who is 6-5, 205 pounds, is Duke’s second leading scorer overall (16.8 points per game) and leads the team in 3-pointers. He’s averaging three made 3-point field goals per game and is shooting 43 percent from behind the 3-point line.
Allen wasn’t the only reason Duke (13-2, 1-2 ACC) struggled on Saturday. Duke can blame most of that on its defense and how well N.C. State played. Allen said he felt like N.C. State was denying him the ball all night.
But Duke needs Allen to play well, or “be strong all the time,” Krzyzewski said.
In the three ACC games Duke has played (Boston College, Florida State, N.C. State), Allen averaged 14.6 points per game. However, he shot 33 percent from the floor in those games.
Allen, Duke’s captain and lone senior this season, starts with four freshmen – guards Trevon Duval, Gary Trent Jr. and forwards Wendell Carter Jr. and Marvin Bagley III.
Duke’s last two national championship teams have consisted of multiple upperclassmen to lead the freshmen. In 2010, the team was made up of seniors Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek and juniors Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler. In 2015, Allen’s freshman season, Duke had juniors Marshall Plumlee, Amile Jefferson and senior guard Quinn Cook.
As “one-and-dones” become more common, particularly at Duke, there is more player turnover.
This year, Allen’s captain status carries much responsibility.
“Youth can show more if that one veteran is having a human night, where it’s not good,” Krzyzewski said Saturday. “His impact on our team is huge.”
On Nov. 14, Allen showed what he’s capable of when he scored a career-high 37 points against then-No. 2 Michigan State in an 88-81 win.
Krzyzewski said part of Allen’s struggles come from playing with new teammates. He said Duke hasn’t had continuity in recent weeks after exams and the holidays for Allen to get into a rhythm with his teammates. Duke has played three games since Dec. 20.
“And he has to hunt his shot,” Krzyzewski said. “We haven’t really hit a transition 3 in a while, and that’s a major part of our offense, especially for him. That’s one of his best shots, and he really hasn’t had that. And that kind of gets him going. He’ll play better, but he hasn’t played well. And we haven’t played well, as well as we need to play.
So far, Duke is 1-2 in the ACC, after losing at N.C. State and Boston College. Allen shot below 50 percent from the 3-point line in those two losses. Duke will need Allen’s 3-point shooting when it plays at Pitt (8-8, 0-3) on Wednesday.
Duke is 7-0 when Allen hits 50 percent or more of his 3-pointers.
“When he plays well, we usually play well,” Krzyzewski said. “That’s what happens when you’re the one or two key players on the team.”
No. 7 Duke at Pitt
When: 7 p.m., Jan. 10
Where: Petersen Events Center, Pittsburgh, Pa.