It’s only November, but it felt like March inside and outside of Madison Square Garden yesterday.
Outside, it was a mild 50 degree day, unusual so close to Thanksgiving. Inside, it was a raucous, packed house that had the Garden feeling like there was a high NCAA Tournament seed at stake, rather than an early season tournament championship on a regular season football Sunday.
The occasion was Duke versus Georgetown in the 2K Championship Final. In a highly entertaining back and forth contest, Duke prevailed 86-84, largely on the back of an incredible MVP performance by sophomore guard Grayson Allen.
Allen scored a game-high 32 points on 9-12 shooting, 5-6 from three-point range, and was 9-9 from the free throw line. He scored in a variety of ways: off the dribble pull-up jumpers, contested drives to the basket and long range three-point bombs, to name a few. He also added 5 rebounds and 4 assists for good measure.
“Grayson had a spectacular performance,” Mike Krzyzewski gushed. “To score 32 points is one thing, but to do it with 12 shots is incredible, absolutely incredible. He was so deserving of the MVP for this. I mean, there wasn’t someone in second or third.”
Allen was coming off of a 30-point outburst in the Blue Devils’ semifinal victory over VCU on Friday night.
Georgetown was the slightly better team in the first half, taking a lead at the 12:06 mark and pushing it to 8 points with 3:57 left in the half. Duke quickly tied the game at 40 with 47 seconds to go, but Kaleb Johnson’s runner from just inside the half court line gave the Hoyas a 47-42 halftime lead.
In the second half, Duke took control. Coach K switched defenses and went primarily to a 1-3-1 zone, which disrupted the Hoyas’ offense. The Blue Devils went on a 10-0 run starting at the 17:10 mark in the second half to take a 9-point lead and control of the game. The Hoyas fought back, but timely daggers from Allen and solid free throw shooting sealed Georgetown’s fate.
“[The 1-3-1] helped us,” Krzyzewski said. “It kept them out of the lane, they were driving us too easy.”
Georgetown refused to wilt and had a chance on the last possession of the game, after freshman Derryck Thornton missed the only two of his ten free throw attempts. Isaac Copeland grabbed the second miss with 5 seconds left, rushed up the court and took a long desperation three-pointer near the left sideline. It was just short.
Copeland led the Hoyas with 21 points. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Johnson chipped in with 14 apiece.
Thornton played a steady game at point for Duke, finishing with 14 points. Matt Jones added 11 points, including 3 three-pointers.
But, the day clearly belonged to Allen who has emerged as a legitimate star.
“He’s a terrific player. He’s one of the better players in the country,” Krzyzewski said while looking at the game’s box score. “I mean, you don’t do what he did today… He can do that and he’ll do it more consistently if we have more balance around him.”
Once Duke gets that balance, watch out.
Follow Jamal Murphy on Twitter: @Blacketologist