By Eli Hershkovich–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The United Center was buzzing Tuesday night, no thanks to the Bulls. After Duke forward Marvin Bagley was poked in the eye during the first half against Michigan State, his teammate Grayson Allen dazzled to the tune of 37 points as the No. 1 Blue Devils knocked off the No. 2 Michigan State Spartans, 88-81.
The 6-foot-5, 205-pound Allen’s scoring output was a Champions Classic record, topping now-Bulls swingman Denzel Valentine, who notched 29 points with Michigan State against Kansas in 2015.
“You keep calling plays for him,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I felt like I was coaching (J.J.) Redick.”
Allen really impressed from behind the arc, hitting 7-of-11 3-pointers to consistently halt the Spartans’ comeback aspirations. On a big stage in front of dozens of NBA executives in attendance to scout some of the nation’s premier talent, the senior Allen boosted his draft stock in the process.
As he played 9.2 minutes per game as a freshman, Allen was known as purely a guard who could attack the lane. He scored 16 points in the 2015 national championship game to help Duke win its fifth title in program history. His shot began to improve in his sophomore campaign, when he compiled a 41.7 percent clip from downtown and connected on 2.5 3-pointers per game.
During Allen’s junior season, he dealt with a nagging left ankle injury, which forced him to revert back to his old ways, Krzyzewski said. His 3-pointer percentage dipped to 36.5 percent as a result.
After undergoing surgery on his ankle in the offseason, Allen looks like a completely different player. While it’s only three games into the season, he’s shooting a career-high 65.4 percent on 3-pointers, along with knocking down 5.7 of them per game.
“Watching a lot of film with me the last two years, a lot of times it’s good to go 100 miles an hour, but it’s also good to slow it down a few times,” Allen said.
Added Krzyzewski said: “He’s not a good shooter. He’s a great shooter, and he’s a really good driver. (He needs to) concentrate on shooting, and then driving … he shoots an NBA three easy.”
Allen’s reputation used to be primarily tied to the incidents in which he tripped opponents on the floor. The focus is now elsewhere. Allen’s name has landed on the Naismith Player of the Year watch list in back-to-back seasons. If he’s provides the Blue Devils with a consistent perimeter threat, he’ll continue to climb up NBA draft boards.
“He’s not this guy that has to get knocked to the floor all of the time,” Krzyzewski said. “In practice, he would always extend himself and get hit. In practice now, that never happens. He’s just become a great player … a great college player.”
Eli Hershkovich is a producer at 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @EliHershkovich.