Less than a week ago, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said Grayson Allen was playing at about 50 percent health as he labored through two subpar weekend games.
Allen just needed a few days of rest and a holiday break to play like the electric scorer he was for most of last year, but his injury problems caught up to him again to cast a shadow over a convincing win.
The junior guard poured in all 21 of his points in the first half on 6-of-9 shooting to lead the No. 6 Blue Devils to a 93-58 win against Appalachian State at Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday afternoon, but he limped off the floor midway through the second half and sat out the last 12 minutes of the game with four fouls.
“It’s his toe. He just landed funny, and when that happens, it hurts. It really hurts,” Krzyzewski said after the game. “He looked fresher in that first half than he has the entire season.”
Allen has previously battled toe and leg injuries this year, and his availability for Tuesday’s game against Michigan State is not clear. Krzyzewski added that the injured freshman trio of Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden will not play Tuesday against the Spartans.
“We had this unbelievably deep team, supposedly, and we really the last month have been back to what we’ve done the last two years,” Krzyzewski said. “There’s no contact in practice, we can hardly practice, you’re in therapy, and that’s frustrating, but you do what you need to do.”
Krzyzewski’s team topped 90 points for the third time this year in the offensive explosion, with his four other starters joining Allen in double figures once again.
Allen set the tone with two 3-pointers in the first 30 seconds of the game to propel the Blue Devils (6-1) to an early double-digit lead, and Duke did not look back the rest of the game.
After the Blue Devils took a 21-point lead into the locker room at halftime, they opened the second half much like they started the first one. Duke scored the first 12 points after the break in just more than two minutes, as freshman guard Frank Jackson opened the half with a triple and Luke Kennard punctuated the run with a steal and breakaway dunk to put the Blue Devils in front 67-34.
“We wanted to come out in the second half and push right away and stay aggressive,” Jackson said. “We’ve had a game [against Kansas] where we didn’t play the way we wanted to coming out in the second half and kind of got down a little bit, but we just wanted to stay motivated.”
Although Bolden and Giles warmed up but did not play for the second straight game, graduate student Amile Jefferson had another big day in the post with 15 points, six rebounds and five assists. He also got help from the Blue Devils’ healthy frontcourt options off the bench—Antonio Vrankovic and Javin DeLaurier combined for 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Duke’s guards crashed the boards effectively to ease the burden on Jefferson, with Kennard leading the team with nine rebounds to go along with his 18 points. The well-rounded effort on the glass resulted in a 45-30 rebounding advantage against a Mountaineer team that entered the day 15th in the nation in rebounding margin.
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“We knew they took a lot of jump shots, so the rebounds would be long, so everybody had to be a rebounder,” Jefferson said. “We have to gang rebound like that to be a really good team. To have our perimeter rebound as well as they did, it really helps us.”
Although Appalachian State (2-3) started the game shooting well and knocked 5-of-9 3-point attempts in the first half, it went cold and only scored 24 points after the break. The Blue Devils forced 18 turnovers to keep the Mountaineers from getting into an offensive rhythm, tightening up after they converted several easy layups in the early going.
“In the first half, our offensive execution was spectacular, and it translated in the second half to good defense,” Krzyzewski said.
Duke will return to its home floor shorthanded for an ACC/Big Ten Challenge showdown with Michigan State Tuesday night at 9:30 p.m.