Duke was far from turning in another 70-point first-half outburst Wednesday against Long Beach State, but the Blue Devils woke up in the second half to punish the foul-happy 49ers with 61.
No. 15 Duke used a 25-6 run spanning halftime to pull away from Long Beach State 103-81 Wednesday at Cameron Indoor Stadium in its nonconference finale. Sophomore Grayson Allen scored 24 of his career-high 33 points in the second half to help the Blue Devils overcome a slow start and head into ACC play on a high note.
“They’ve been in a lot of big games in big arenas—at Oregon, they had UCLA with minute and a half to go, at Arizona. They were very poised and handled themselves offensively,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I still think Grayson can play better, but he, obviously, was a godsend today, or else we have a chance to lose the game.”
It was not easy in the early going. Duke (11-2) shot just 34.4 percent in the first half and struggled to contain the 49ers on the other end of the floor. Long Beach State (6-9) took advantage of a sizable advantage on the glass to generate second-chance opportunities, and the hot shooting of Noah Blackwell paced the visitors to a 30-22 lead.
Making his first career start, Blackwell poured in 12 first-half points, nine from behind the arc, and kept the Duke defense honest, opening up the lane for slashers and pick-and-roll action. Point guard Justin Bibbins exploited the driving lanes and handed out five assists, three in the first period.
“We came out flat,” Allen said. “They came out strong and they attacked us and came right at us and we came out soft and kind of backed away from that, and we can’t do that. [Krzyzewski] saw it and got the message across to all of us [in the first media timeout].”
But the Blue Devils began relentlessly attacking the basket in the final two minutes of the period, and the aggression swung the game in Duke's favor.
Allen, Matt Jones and Marshall Plumlee converted 9-of-10 free throws on five consecutive trips to the line in the final two minutes and Luke Kennard tacked on a jumper to go from trailing 35-31 to leading 42-36 heading into the locker room. As has happened throughout the season, Duke came out strong in the second half, and led by Allen's six quick points, the Blue Devils throttled the 49ers in the opening minutes, growing its lead to 51-38 by the first media timeout.
Despite the 49ers' best efforts, Duke continued to pour on the points, closing with more than 100 for the third time this season and second time in as many games, after Duke scored 105 against Elon Monday. Allen shot just 1-of-6 shooting in the first half but made his first six to open the second frame, finishing 8-of-15 from the floor and 15-of-17 at the foul line to surpass 30 points for the third time this season. The Jacksonville, Fla., native also handed out a team-high six assists.
“Coach wanted us to be more active on offense when we were attacking the zone,” Allen said. “I just saw lanes to drive out there, and as the game went on, I was able to see them quicker and more often.”
Freshman Derryck Thornton scored Duke's first five points and finished with 18 points, one off his career-high. Jones and freshman Brandon Ingram combined for 35 points and nine rebounds.
Defensively, the Blue Devils locked in against Maryland transfer Nick Faust, who had punished Arizona and UCLA for 17 and 24 points, respectively. Against Duke, though the 6-foot-6 was a pest defensively but struggled from the floor, collecting 10 points—just three in the first half—and committing three turnovers.
“Obviously, he was an enormous guy for us, and to be able to kind of limit him, it definitely felt good,” Jones said. “Now we just have to do that and keep the rest of his teammates or the rest of the people contained. We can’t just worry about him.”
With the final victory of 2015 in the books, Duke will take a three-day reprieve before traveling to open ACC play at Boston College Jan. 2.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.