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Beyond the arc: Grayson Allen and smothering defense lead Duke to blowout win

<p>Duke's stifling 2-3 zone limited Louisville to just 56 points and 35.9% shooting from the field.&nbsp;</p>

Duke's stifling 2-3 zone limited Louisville to just 56 points and 35.9% shooting from the field. 

Make it four straight—Duke cruised to another home victory Wednesday, easily taking down Louisville 82-56. The Blue Zone gives three key takeaways and stats from the win and looks forward for the Blue Devils: 

Three key takeaways: 

1. Really in the zone

If you had doubts about Duke's zone defense still going into Wednesday's contest, fair enough. The Blue Devils had found success in three straight games, sure, but the sample size was still small enough to have questions about whether they could keep it up for the long run. Now, Duke has successfully confused—its defensive fingerprint is currently listed as "inconclusive"—and for the first time in the shot clock era, the Blue Devils have held three straight ACC opponents to 60 points or fewer.

2. Is Grayson Allen the best player in the country right now?

Maybe so. Duke's senior captain showed what he was capable of in the third game of the season against Michigan State, but since then, it was middling performance after middling performance. Coach K didn't want to call it a slump, yet the numbers said otherwise. With nearly 24 points per game in the Blue Devils' last four contests, though, it's fair to argue that no player in the country is more dangerous than Allen right now. He's found his game with the ball in his hands and Marvin Bagley III off the floor—and while it remains to be seen if that changes upon Bagley's return, teams are going to have to find a way to slow Duke's most experienced player down in the meantime.

3. Lots of options

Although the margin was substantial for most of the second half, the Blue Devils are showing that they have a deeper team that some might have thought given their lack of rotation earlier in the season. Yes, four of Duke's starters played at least 30 minutes last night, but between starter Javin DeLaurier and subs Marques Bolden, Jack White and Alex O'Connell, the Blue Devils got 19 points and 19 boards in 57 minutes of play. Even if Bagley returns soon, it might be good to let him work his way back in and let some of Duke's talented reserves keep up their groove from the bench.

Three key stats: 

1. 44 rebounds and a +14 margin on the glass

In the early minutes of the game, the Cardinals appeared to have a chance to hang around thanks to their length and size, even prompting one reporter to note the following:

From there, the Blue Devils dominated the boards, and although no player logged a double-double against Louisville, it was a team effort—five different players grabbed at least five rebounds led by nine from Wendell Carter Jr.

2. Allen's 15 3-point attempts

A few weeks back, Allen noted that Coach K was telling him to "hunt his shot," even when it wasn't going down consistently. In Duke's four-game win streak, the senior has now taken 40 attempts from beyond the arc, but has hit 16 of them including six more last night. Even though Gary Trent Jr. knocked down just one on four tries, a pair of dangerous shooters will only open up the floor even more for the Blue Devil offense.

3. Four Cardinal starters go 11-of-33 from the field

Ray Spalding notched a double-double, sure. But the Duke defense killed the rest of Louisville's offense as the Cards could get nothing going. And big man Anas Mahmoud struggled to find any rhythm with fouls on the other end as he finished with only two points on the night.

Looking forward:

The Blue Devils have just two home games remaining this season, the first which comes Saturday against Syracuse. The Orange dropped a close contest to North Carolina in upstate New York earlier Wednesday night, but have the length to potentially slow down Duke inside. The hosts will look to get closer to an ACC tournament double-bye—the Blue Devils can guarantee a Thursday night contest in Brooklyn with wins Saturday evening and Monday in Blacksburg, Va.

Mitchell Gladstone | Sports Managing Editor

Twitter: @mpgladstone13

A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak." 


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