It was just over seven months ago when Duke Blue Devils guard Grayson Allen burst on the scene in the national title game, giving Duke a much needed lift as they went on their way to win their fifth title.
On Friday night in the season opener, Allen led the Blue Devils to a 92-74 win over the Siena Saints as he scored 26 points, one point shy of his career-high. The sophomore did most of his damage in the first half as he scored 20 of his 26 points before the intermission. Senior forward Amile Jefferson added a double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Despite losing by a large margin, the Saints were led by junior guard Marquis Wright who recorded 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. Forwards Lavon Long and Javion Ogunyemi would tally 15 points apiece.
In their first game as college players, Duke freshmen Brandon Ingram, Luke Kennard, Derryck Thornton and Chase Jeter showed some promise. Ingram is the only one who started and he finished with 15 points on 5-of-16 shooting, while the other three combined to score 17 points.
Siena would make it competitive early as they would take a 15-13 lead at the 13:43 mark, but that wouldn’t last long - exactly eight seconds - as the Blue Devils would go on a 13-0 run and never look back. Duke would expand their margin and go into halftime with a 44-27 lead. By the end of regulation, the Blue Devils would lead by as many as 29 points; however, Siena would continue to compete and would lose by the final score of 92-74.
This is a very different Duke team that cut down the nets in Indianapolis last season, but they still have seven McDonalds All-Americans – the most by any team in the country – and are very capable with the talent they have to do so again. Instead of running the offense through the post with a player like Jahlil Okafor, the Blue Devils will have to rely on a perimeter oriented offense.
One thing the likes of Allen and Ingram showed was the ability to drive to the basket, something Duke will need if they want to open up the perimeter. Allen, specifically, showed that on two instances. The first coming in the first half when he went coast-to-coast and finished with the one-handed slam, and the other coming in the second half when Marshall Plumlee set him up with a nice bounce pass, on the run and finished with the monster one-handed finish.
“That’s something that I’m always going to look to do, is attack,” said Allen. “Tonight I was given open lanes to get all the way to the rim.”
Siena was clearly overmatched by the talent of Duke, but one thing is for sure they weren’t intimidated. The Saints battled and played hard all night. This is a great experience for a team who looks to rebound from a tough season and climb up the MAAC standings.
Duke keeps their non-conference winning streak at home alive, extending it to 117. Their last loss came in 2000 against St. John’s.
The Blue Devils will host the Bryant Bulldogs Saturday night at 8:00 PM EST. The Siena Saints will stay on the road and face the #17 Wisconsin Badgers on Sunday night at 8:00 PM EST.