On a night expected to primarily feature the next group of Blue Devil freshman phenoms, Duke’s lone returning star stole the show. 

Grayson Allen looked like his sophomore self again and put the rest of the college basketball world on notice. 

The senior scored 23 points as the Blue Devils rolled 93-60 against Northwest Missouri State Friday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke used a 19-5 run midway through the first half to put the game out of reach and finished shooting 60.6 percent from the field as it limited the Bearcats to just 31.4 percent.

“We beat a really good team,” Blue Devil head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “There’s a reason they were national champions last year, and they have a chance to do it again this year.”

The Blue Devils’ starting lineup was the same as Krzyzewski hinted at earlier in the week, featuring freshmen Trevon Duval, Gary Trent Jr., Wendell Carter Jr. and Marvin Bagley III, along with Allen. 

The group struggled initially as the defending Division II national champions came out strong and aggressive, forcing Duke into several early turnovers and limiting its offensive flow. 

But its sluggishness was short-lived, as first Trent, then Allen heated up from the field. Trent looked comfortable operating in the midrange, knocking down several tough pull-up jump shots. Allen hit back-to-back jumpers to kickstart the decisive run and then steadfastly attacked the rim, creating open shots for himself and teammates.

“I got a few open looks from three early on and I felt like they were hugging up to me and didn’t want me to get any more open looks, and I know when that happens I can drive,” Allen said. “Especially after Gary has knocked down a few, that guy’s not going to leave, and they were really fighting our bigs in the post and hugging up to them, so I thought there were a lot of open lanes to drive.”

The two heralded freshmen big men were solid as well against an undersized Bearcat team. With nobody physical enough to handle him in the post, Carter dominated the interior and finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. Bagley stepped up in the second half to end with 16 points and six rebounds, taking advantage of his superior athleticism.

“My mindset coming into the second half was just play. Don’t think—play basketball,” Bagley said. “Take whatever the defense gives you and at the time, the defense was giving me the post, and I went down and scored a little bit and we went on a little run.”

Bagley and Carter also served as effective rim protectors, as the Bearcats were reluctant to drive inside. But the Blue Devils’ perimeter defense was lacking at times, with Duval and Allen sometimes a step slow to rotate or close out. Northwest Missouri State made 12 triples to create most of its offense.

Duval, the freshman entrusted with running the Duke offense, had an unspectacular game on paper, finishing with just seven points and five assists, but contributed several highlight plays, including a steal followed by an emphatic breakaway dunk. The New Castle, Del., native let Allen and Trent handle the brunt of the scoring burden. 

“Trevon had a terrific game.” Krzyzewski said. “He made some really simple, great passes, and then guarding their best player, who’s good, and he did a good job on him.”

The lopsided score meant that the Blue Devil reserves got a decent amount of action, most notably sophomores Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier. Bolden looked to be in better shape than he was during his disappointing campaign last year, as he showed improved quickness on defense, even switching onto smaller players in pick-and-roll situations.

DeLaurier showcased the athleticism that he showed in flashes last season, elevating above defenders to snatch rebounds and even knocking down a 3-pointer on the offensive end. He will likely be counted on to perform in a bigger role this season and looked ready to perform at a high level. 

Duke dominated the glass, more than doubling Northwest Missouri State’s rebounding output, and redshirt sophomore Justin Robinson got in on the action late with a putback dunk that drew one of the biggest cheers of the night.

“I just went in and they told me to be active and they told us to go get rebounds,” Robinson said. “So I just went after it and I saw I could dunk it.”

There are still kinks to be ironed out defensively, especially on the perimeter, but Duke’s offense looked to be in midseason form, with Allen a threat to score every time he touched the ball. 

The Blue Devils will have a week to analyze their performance before their final exhibition next Saturday against Bowie State at Cameron Indoor. 

“They have a lot of learning to do,” Krzyzewski said. “But they want to learn, so that was good. But tonight was good. That was a good start.”