Less than a year ago, college basketball’s blinding spotlight shone on Grayson Allen after he tripped Elon’s Steven Santa Ana.
On Friday night, the only meaningful contact the two had was a quick fist bump before the tipoff.
Moments later, Allen exploded.
Duke’s lone senior scored its first eight points of the game and helped the Blue Devils burst out of the gates early in a commanding 97-68 win against Elon Friday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium, as the senior finished with 22 points. Allen’s fiery start sparked No. 1 Duke's 20-3 run to start the game, and with the help of Marvin Bagley III’s 25 points—a school record for freshmen in a season opener—and 10 rebounds, the Blue Devils cruised from there.
“That was amazing,” freshman point guard Trevon Duval said. “[Allen] helped us out a lot and pushed the lead early…. We definitely felt like the No. 1 team in the country. Grayson the whole time, before and during the game, he chased the No. 1. Even though we're No. 1, we're still chasing the No. 1."
As for Santa Ana, he went quietly as Allen blew up, scoring just two points in 18 minutes.
Allen was a threat from beyond the arc early and often, hitting five of his first six 3-pointers and anchoring a Duke team that otherwise struggled from long distance in the early going. Outside of Allen and Gary Trent Jr., who shot 4-of-5 from long range, the Blue Devils made just 2-of-11 3-point attempts.
While Allen was lighting up the crowd from downtown, Bagley stole the show in the paint, throwing down a number of thunderous dunks. Duval dished a spectacular pass that Bagley alley-ooped just nine minutes in, an exclamation point that put the Blue Devils up 24-8.
“What we find is you get [Bagley] the ball low, something good is going to happen,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I thought we were watching him a little bit to begin with, but if you’re moving, he’ll find you too.”
Against an undersized Phoenix team that had just one player taller than 6-foot-8 playing meaningful minutes, Duke (1-0) owned the glass, outrebounding Elon 48-30. With center Marques Bolden out due to strep throat, sophomore forward Javin DeLaurier was the first off the bench and took the bulk of the reserve post minutes when Wendell Carter Jr. found himself early foul trouble, grabbing 11 rebounds in just 19 minutes and throwing down a late dunk on Santa Ana.
But the Blue Devils did not show much depth beyond DeLaurier, with just 17 bench points. Krzyzewski said Duke will likely be without Bolden once again Saturday and Tuesday against No. 2 Michigan State, leaving Duke shorthanded for the near future on the bench.
“We’ve got to get him well,” Krzyzewski said. “With Wendell in foul trouble and him out, that’s not the dynamic we want…. The foul trouble he had put us in some situations that we didn’t practice much with the bench.”
Carter played 16 minutes and didn’t make much of an impact on the stat sheet, scoring eight points, but Duval shone as a facilitator, nearly recording a double-double of his own.
The Blue Devils didn’t slow down in the second half, keeping the pressure up on the Phoenix (0-1) and playing clean basketball—Duke had just three turnovers in the first half and 12 total. The Blue Devils started out the second half on a 9-0 run and steadily built their lead, holding an as big as a 35-point advantage with just more than five minutes remaining.
“The best part of the game was the start of the second half, Krzyzewski said. “A young team, up by 20, you can get fool’s gold there, and instead we played great, and it wasn’t Grayson shooting. It was us playing well.”
Duke will look to build on its early momentum Saturday at 7:00 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium against Utah Valley, which led No. 5 Kentucky 34-25 at the half on Friday before ultimately falling. A win against the Wolverines would give Krzyzewski 1,000 in his 38 years with the Blue Devils.
“I love Duke. I don’t like Duke, I love Duke. I’m so lucky to be here for this time,” Krzyzewski said. “It keeps you young. I don’t have a timetable for how long I’m going to coach, just trying to be in this moment.
"When 1,000 comes, 1,000 comes. I can’t even believe it. That’s why I don’t want to think about it. We were 38-47 here in my first three years. There were a lot of people here that donate money that didn’t think I would win 1,000 games, me being one of them too.”