Allen’s career night spoils Spartans’ hopes in Champions Classic

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CHICAGO – In a game that featured a matchup of the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation, only one player rose above the rest and led his team to victory.

Grayson Allen, love him or hate him, dropped a Champions Classic-record 37 points on No. 2 Michigan State on 11-of-20 shooting (7-of-11 from three-point range), propelling No. 1 Duke to an 88-81 victory over the Spartans from the United Center in Chicago.

The game was won on the glass, in the paint and beyond the arc. Duke outrebounded MSU by 12 (46 to 34) on the evening and grabbed a whopping 25 offensive rebounds to the Spartans’ 11. The Blue Devils in total amassed more offensive boards than defensive.

“I’m embarrassed, to be honest with you,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said postgame. “The idea that a team would get 25 offensive rebounds. I don’t care how big they are. We had two keys to start the game: turnovers. We had some foolish ones […] and rebounding. Never in a million years did I think we’d get outrebounded like that.”

The first half showed a glimpse of the show Allen put on, as he scored 14 points to lead Duke, including a 30-foot buzzer-beater to end the half that sent the Blue Devils into a frenzy. They also outrebounded Michigan State by nine in the first half (26 to 17). Offensively, the Blue Devils grabbed 15 boards, four more than their 11 they grabbed defensively, while the Spartans only got two off the offensive glass.

“I feel like I was kinda hot,” Allen said post-game of his record-breaking performance. “It started with Trevon (Duval) getting me open looks. These first three games, he’s been finding me.”

Allen’s stellar performance made up for the absence of Duke’s highly-touted freshman Marvin Bagley III. Around the 15-minute mark, Bagley III went up for an offensive rebound and was poked in the eye by his teammate Jordan Goldwire. He remained down for several minutes, and ultimately went back to the locker room for further treatment and evaluation. He didn’t return to the game due to precautionary reasons, coach Mike Krzyzewski said postgame.

“I’m embarrassed, to be honest with you. The idea that a team would get 25 offensive rebounds.”
–Tom Izzo

But it was the Blue Devils who hung around and did enough to be in control, despite the stat sheet not reflecting it. MSU shot 50 percent from the field in the first half to Duke’s 30 percent. However, they trailed 38-34 after Allen’s buzzer-beater.

MSU came to life in the second half thanks to an 8-0 run capped off with a Nick Ward and-one after a scrum on the Blue Devils’ side of the floor. That tied things up at 56 apiece at the 12:30 mark of the second half.

But from then on, it was all Duke. A Gary Trent Jr. three-pointer with 3:05 remaining gave the Blue Devils a 75-72 lead in what was the final turning point. Allen hit another dagger three with one minute left, followed by a Javin DeLaurier fast-break dunk to put the exclamation point on the 42nd matchup in history between the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked teams in the nation.

Duke also stole the basketball 12 times from Michigan State, whereas MSU only had one takeaway from the Blue Devils in 40 minutes. Despite shooting 51 percent from the field to Duke’s 39 percent, the Spartans’ carelessness while attempting to navigate the zone defense Duke played the entire game bit them.

The Blue Devils began the game in a 3-2 zone and later transitioned into a 2-3 zone. Passing lanes for Cassius Winston were quickly clogged up. Bridges was double-teamed beyond the arc, and MSU’s big bodies couldn’t receive the ball as much as they wanted to. The closer proximity of more bodies in blue to the rim also helped account for their advantage in rebounding.

The bright spot for the Spartans came in the form of another highly-touted freshman: Jaren Jackson Jr. He didn’t miss a shot in the first half, going 4-for-4 from the field, including 2-for-2 from beyond the arc. Despite his two missed free throws, his 10 points led MSU after 20 minutes. He finished with 19 points (tied with Miles Bridges and Nick Ward to lead MSU) and four turnovers.

The next test for the Spartans comes on Sunday afternoon when Stony Brook will pay a visit to the Breslin Center. Tip-off for that game is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET.

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