With 13 minutes and 17 seconds left in Monday night’s national championship game, the Duke Blue Devils found themselves in major trouble. The Wisconsin Badgers had come out in the second half and taken it to them. The Devils were in a nine-point hole, and it appeared the Badgers were poised to bring the title back to Madison. That’s when the unlikeliest of all the Duke freshman, Grayson Allen, strapped on the Superman cape and saved the day.
Allen would score the next eight points for Duke and bring his team back to life. His energy, tenacity, and grit turned the tides of the game, and the Blue Devils never looked back. Point guard Tyus Jones went to work, knocking down big shot after big shot. All-American center Jahlil Okafor finished off the Badgers with a couple of monster buckets inside. When the final buzzer sounded and the confetti began to fall, the Blue Devils were the ones on the winning side of an unbelievable 68-63 affair. The notable players may have closed out the game for Duke, but it was Allen who sparked the turnaround.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski is bringing his fifth national championship back to Durham, N.C., and once again, one of the heavyweights on Tobacco Road finds itself at the top of the college basketball mountain. It’s hard enough to win a title, but it’s even more challenging to defend it; Duke will be more than up for the challenge. The young Blue Devils truly grew up on Monday night. And it all started with Allen.
In the era of the “one-and-done,” this year’s Duke Blue Devils were led by a trio of talented freshmen. Jones was the scrappy floor general who controlled the tempo of the game and came up clutch down the stretch. Okafor, widely regarded as one of the top two picks in the upcoming 2015 NBA Draft, was the smooth big man with the unrivaled offensive repertoire.
And man-child Justice Winslow was the powerful lefty who attacked the rim with authority and provided huge plays on both ends of the floor. These three led Duke to this year’s national championship. These three played well beyond their years. These three will more than likely be playing in the NBA next season. But with his standout performance in the national championship game, Allen proved that he is prepared to take the torch.
The Duke Blue Devils played with an eight-man rotation, and Allen was the last guy off the bench. On the season, he averaged just 4.4 points in only 9.2 minutes per game. Coming into Monday’s contest, Allen had only scored 18 points in the entire NCAA Tournament. But he had shown a willingness to work hard all season and was more than prepared to step up when called upon.
When Duke needed a spark in the national title game, Coach K turned to the other freshman. And the rest is history. Allen seized the moment and made the most of his opportunity. He scored 16 points in 21 minutes of play and was the driving force behind Duke’s comeback victory. Not bad for being the last man in the rotation.
There is a strong possibility that Duke will be forced to defend its title without this year’s three heralded freshmen. The NBA is calling, and Okafor, Jones, and Winslow have shown their readiness to play at the next level. Because we’re talking about Coach K’s squadron, you know there will be a new crop of skilled freshmen coming in that are excited to continue in the tradition of excellence.
However, as the national championship game showed us, that’s not all the Blue Devils have going for them. A young man emerged out of nowhere to lead Duke to the promised land. And he’ll be back next season to try and help them do it all again. Welcome to the spotlight, Grayson Allen. It’s your show now.