It’s no secret: Grayson Allen hasn’t been himself this season. Or anything close to it.
After he was knocked down by tripping incidents last year, he hadn’t shown his trademark fire this year. Gone has been the national controversy and ire for Duke’s “villain,” but so has his dynamic slashing and sharpshooting.
But a flagrant foul might have just knocked the life back into him.
With Duke struggling to separate itself from the overmatched Panthers six minutes in, Allen forced a steal and had a wide open dunk—until Pittsburgh sophomore Kene Chukwuka clipped him, sending him tumbling to the ground.
Allen got right up and started jawing off. Then, the old Allen came back.
A few minutes later, Allen got his chance for redemption, forcing another steal and throwing down a dunk, sending Cameron Indoor Stadium into a frenzy.
“That fire was already there, but it added to it,” Allen said when asked if the foul got him going. “From then on, I was fired up the rest of the game and ready to go.”
The senior captain got his shot and mojo back in No. 5 Duke’s 81-54 rout of the Panthers, scoring 16 points and nailing four triples Saturday. After things got chippy with Allen and Chukwuka, the Blue Devils exploded for a 23-7 run and never looked back.
Duke (17-2, 5-2 in the ACC) had been up just 15-10 against a team it had eviscerated just more than a week ago. Pittsburgh (8-12, 0-7) made four of its first six triples to keep it in the game early—until Allen rattled the Panthers.
“[It was] not so much like he got hyped or anything, but it was more so calm and like I’m going to do my job and make sure my teammates are doing their job, and we’re going to get the W,” freshman Wendell Carter Jr. said of Allen’s reaction. “Him being the team captain, he leads by example a lot, and when he comes out with a lot of fire, we’re going right behind him.”
Although Allen didn’t make much of a difference from the scoring end immediately after the foul, it was one of the few times he had gotten visibly emotional this season, and the Jacksonville, Fla., native snapped out of his shooting slump in the second half. After shooting just 8-of-41 from deep in six ACC games entering the day, he nailed three 3-pointers in the second half and finished 4-of-10 from long distance.
Those late triples came after Allen was seen chuckling when a shot rimmed out and started just 1-of-6 from deep.
“I’ve had like nine of those in the last three games that just hit the front of the rim and go halfway in and bounce out,” Allen said. “When you’re a half-inch off like that, there’s nothing you need to change. You just keep shooting it.”
Gary Trent Jr. continued his hot streak, knocking down two 3-pointers during Duke’s decisive run and finishing with 17 points and five triples. In his last nine games, Trent has shot a scorching 35-of-64 from beyond the arc and has scored at least 13 points in every single one.
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski thinks his recent shooting exploits stem from work on the other side of the ball.
“He’s playing faster. He’s playing better defense. We’ve spent a lot of time the last few weeks on our foot movements on defense,” Krzyzewski said. "And it helps on offense because as you move your feet, you get wider, you get quicker. You get much better balance. He’s played well all year, but the last two weeks he’s played outstanding basketball.”
Pittsburgh was hot from the floor in the first half, shooting 50.0 percent from the field, but turned the ball over a woeful 11 times. Duke’s full-court press and man defense flustered the Panthers into many giveaways, which the Blue Devils converted into 24 points by the end of the game.
Allen and the Blue Devils continued to stymie the offensively-challenged Panthers in the second half, holding them to shoot just 34.5 percent in the period and score 28 points.
Marvin Bagley III and Carter took particular advantage of an undersized Pittsburgh team, combining for 41 points and 15 rebounds. Carter made nine of his 10 shots from the field, and it was the first game all season both he and Bagley scored at least 20 points.
After missing three games with a hamstring injury, fellow big man Javin DeLaurier returned and played 10 scoreless minutes. Center Marques Bolden continued to sit on the bench Saturday, nursing an MCL sprain that has kept him out since Dec. 30.
Duke will look to extend its four-game winning streak at Wake Forest Tuesday at 9 p.m. The Demon Deacons excel in shooting from beyond the arc, which the Blue Devils have struggled to defend all season, though they held the Panthers to shoot just 4-of-16 from deep.
“[Wake Forest] is extremely talented offensively,” Allen said. “In the second half today, we did a really good job at defending Pitt’s 3-point shot, and that’s going to be very key going to Wake. They’re going to be playing very confident and very free at home. And they’re going to come to play. They don’t care about us beating them the first time. They’re going to come to play.”
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Managing Editor 2018-19, 2019-2020 Features & Investigations Editor
A member of the class of 2020 hailing from San Mateo, Calif., Ben is The Chronicle's Towerview Editor and Investigations Editor. Outside of the Chronicle, he is a public policy major working towards a journalism certificate, has interned at the Tampa Bay Times and NBC News and frequents Pitchforks.