Duke's Grayson Allen reinstated after just one game, excels in his return

Jeff Eisenberg

Grayson Allen’s indefinite suspension didn’t last long

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski reinstated his preseason All-American on Wednesday night after just a one-game absence.

Allen started Wednesday’s 110-57 rout of Georgia Tech and helped spearhead the onslaught. The junior guard scored 15 points and dished out seven assists, providing the creativity and distribution off the dribble that Duke lacked with Allen unavailable for last Saturday’s loss at Virginia Tech.

The incident that led to Allen’s suspension took place late in the first half of Duke’s 72-61 victory over Elon on Dec. 21. As Elon’s Steven Santa Ana spun past him on the baseline, Allen stuck out his right leg and swept his opponent’s left leg out from under him, a play very reminiscent of two previous tripping incidents that landed the combo guard in the national media’s crosshairs.

In a Feb. 8 matchup with Louisville, Allen stuck both his legs out and appeared to intentionally trip Cardinals forward Ray Spalding as he ran up floor, resulting in a flagrant foul. Seventeen days later against Florida State, Allen lifted his left leg and tripped Xavier Rathan-Mayes as the Seminoles guard began to run up court, resulting in a public reprimand from the ACC but no suspension.

Allen’s third tripping incident inspired swift public outcry from fans and media for the Duke guard to receive a stiffer penalty. Krzyzewski initially was non-committal, but made up his mind the morning after.

Calling Allen’s actions “unacceptable and inexcusable,” Krzyzewski suspended Allen on Dec. 22 after the junior guard’s third tripping incident of the calendar year. Krzyzewski also later announced that he had stripped Allen of his captaincy as well.

Grayson Allen made his return Wednesday night against Georgia Tech (Getty Images).
Grayson Allen made his return Wednesday night against Georgia Tech (Getty Images).

The timing of Allen’s return may have something to do with Krzyzewski’s impending back surgery on Friday. By reinstating Allen now rather than waiting until Saturday’s game against Boston College, Krzyzewski takes the heat himself rather than passing that along to interim coach Jeff Capel.

Georgia Tech and Boston College would probably be overmatched at Duke whether Allen played or not, but the one game he did miss was a big one. The Blue Devils trailed from start to finish this past Saturday at Virginia Tech, relying too much on 1-on-1 isolation plays on offense and struggling to contain dribble penetration on defense.

Duke looked sharper in all respects against Georgia Tech, opening up a commanding 61-30 lead by halftime and cruising from there. Seven Blue Devils scored in double figures against a Yellowjackets team coming off a stunning upset victory over North Carolina.

In his first game action in two weeks, Allen showed few signs of rust. His most memorable highlight was a first-half four-point play, however, he was at his best finding teammates in the open floor.

Allen was not the only surprise starter in Duke’s lineup Wednesday night at Georgia Tech.

Harry Giles, the consensus top prospect in the 2016 class, will make his first start for the Blue Devils after being eased into the rotation the past couple weeks following his third knee surgery in three years. Giles had seasons highs of 10 points and 12 rebounds after tallying a combined five points and 10 boards in his previous three games.