After a rough game against the Kentucky Wildcats earlier this week, Grayson Allen was demoted to the bench coming into tonight’s game. Instead of sulking, Allen came off the bench and scored a career-high 30 points as the Duke Blue Devils defeated the VCU Rams 79-71 in the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden.
“For us, it’s all about moving on,” said Allen. “There was obviously a rough film session after the Kentucky game where we talked about the improvements that needed to be made. Once you see that you move to the next game. You make those improvements and move on. For me, coming off the bench it was nothing different as if I was starting. It’s the same aggressive, attacking mindset.”
One thing about VCU, they were not intimidated by a top-five ranked team in the Mecca of basketball at Madison Square Garden. Even without their former coach Shaka Smart and their “havoc” defense, this Rams team still placed pressure from a defensive standpoint, and occasionally a full court press.
It was a back and forth affair in the first half as the Rams would go on an 11-2 run to grab a 22-15 lead with 10:30 left in the half. Duke would respond with an 11-4 run of their own to tie the game up at 26 with 5:52 left. The two teams would trade blows but the Rams would garner a 39-38 lead at the intermission.
With 11:38 remaining in regulation at the TV timeout, the Rams led the Blue Devils 54-53. Duke would come out of the timeout and go on a 17-4 run that sealed their 79-71 victory over VCU. Of those 17 points, Grayson Allen scored eight of them.
“I thought we played really hard and played well for the most part,” Rams head coach Will Wade said. “That stretch from the 11 ½ minute mark to the seven minute mark it got away from us… I was proud of how our guys competed. We couldn’t get some shots to fall. Tonight wasn’t our night.”
Allen led all scorers with 30 points on 9-of-15 shooting, including 4-of-8 from behind the arc. Freshman guard Derryck Thornton, who started in place of Allen, had his best game as a Blue Devil as he scored a career-high 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field. Matt Jones quietly had a huge impact as he recorded 10 points, six rebounds and three assists. Jones would drill two three-pointers, both of which came in huge moments for the Blue Devils.
VCU senior Melvin Johnson had a great game as he scored 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including 4-of-6 from three-point land. Big man Mo Alie-Cox added 15 points but only grabbed two rebounds. Ahmad Hamdy-Mohamed came off the bench and recorded 10 points.
The VCU Rams will face the Wisconsin Badgers on Sunday in the third-place game of the 2K Classic. The Duke Blue Devils will face the Georgetown Hoyas on Sunday in the championship game of the 2K Classic.