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Kennard, Tatum lead Duke men's basketball to sluggish win against Elon after another Grayson Allen trip

<p>Freshman Jayson Tatum led the way for Duke Wednesday with his fifth straight double-digit scoring effort to start his career.</p>

Freshman Jayson Tatum led the way for Duke Wednesday with his fifth straight double-digit scoring effort to start his career.

GREENSBORO—At first glance, Wednesday's game against Elon appeared to present a chance for the Blue Devils to stay fresh between final exams and a lengthy break for Christmas with ACC play approaching.

Instead, Duke will head into that break with a lot more questions than answers.

A 20-7 run to start the second half propelled the fifth-ranked Blue Devils to a 72-61 victory against the Phoenix at the Greensboro Coliseum, but Duke did not look like the juggernaut many expected with all of its players healthy for the second game in a row after a sluggish 65-55 win against Tennessee State Monday. In a contest marred by yet another trip by junior Grayson Allen late in the first half, the Blue Devils struggled to match their opponent's energy.

“We have to become a group that is all consumed in just Duke, and by saying that, I’m just saying that we have to just buy in,” said sophomore Luke Kennard, who led all scorers with 21 points. “Every guy on our team, inside, they have individual goals, and that’s a great thing to have, but sometimes those individual goals may tend to sneak up and kind of take over what it’s really all about, and that’s about winning as a group.”

Although Duke started to open up a lead with an 11-2 run late in the first half to pull in front 32-24, Allen tripped Elon guard Steven Santa Ana as he spun toward the basket and was whistled for a deadball technical foul to send the momentum back to the Phoenix. Allen tripped two opponents in highly publicized incidents last season.

Elon closed the half on an 11-2 run of its own to take a one-point lead into the halftime locker room, but the Blue Devils came out in the second half with much more energy.

Two free throws by graduate student Amile Jefferson a minute into the period gave Duke the lead for good, and the Blue Devil advantage reached double figures for the first time on a driving layup by freshman Jayson Tatum with 14:05 remaining following a turnover.

Duke forced the Phoenix into 17 giveaways and had 24 points off turnovers, and the Blue Devils played a much cleaner game on their offensive end, coughing it up just four times.

“We realized in the first half that we were just really all trying to score,” Tatum said. “Everybody can score in college, but you really have to be able to defend to really start your offense, and that’s what helped us today.”

Tatum scored 18 points on 7-of-22 shooting to supplement Kennard's game-high 21 points.

The Phoenix never pulled closer than eight points the rest of the way, as Duke (12-1) did a much better job of taking away the 3-pointer after the break. Elon (7-5) shot 7-of-14 from beyond the arc in the first half, but shot just 1-of-8 from deep in the second.

“First half, we gave up a lot of wide open looks. Our centers gave up four open looks for their centers, and they hit all of them,” Blue Devil head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We’ve been one of the best defensive teams against the three because of knowing those things, and in the second half, we showed it.”

A slew of late free throws gave Jefferson 13 points and helped Krzyzewski's team put the Phoenix away after they got within eight.

Freshman forward Harry Giles scored his first point as a Blue Devil on a free throw late in the second half, but still struggled to fit in with Duke's offense after his college debut Monday.

The Winston-Salem, N.C., native was 0-for-2 from the field in six minutes, and his freshman counterpart in the post did not do any better. Marques Bolden played three scoreless minutes early in the game without recording any stats and never returned to the floor.

“[Giles] was moving his feet defensively. He was into the game,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s got to get into playing shape, but he made a couple big rebounds. He got tired, couldn’t finish.”

The Blue Devils will now go home for Christmas before facing their first real road test of the season Dec. 31 at Virginia Tech.

If the ACC suspends Allen for his latest trip, Duke will take on the 10-1 Hokies without one of its best players.

“I thought it was going to be a Red Auerbach year where you break out a cigar with about 10 minutes to go.... That’s what makes the game so interesting,” Krzyzewski said. “We have a great growth potential, and it’s going to happen over a period of time, not in the next week or two weeks.”

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