Duke almost never drops consecutive games under Mike Krzyzewski, and to lose two straight in non-conference play is all the more aberrational.
So you had to figure, in light of Duke’s 74-63 main-stage loss against Kentucky on Tuesday night in the Champions Classic, that the Blue Devils would be ready for VCU. And, in time, they were. VCU, now coached by Will Wade, started strong. Even led at halftime! But Duke pulled away thanks to a career night by sophomore guard Grayson Allen, who went for 30 points and paced Duke to a 79-71 victory.
Not a bad job by a kid who had a great debut a week ago, doing outrageous things like this, but then was totally shut down and, ultimately benched for Friday’s game because of his bad play against the Wildcats on Tuesday.
A lesser opponent allowed Allen to have a greater game. Even still, VCU is much better than Bryant and Siena. This was a nice step for him. He was reason No. 1 Duke got the win. Allen is now averaging 22.5 points, by the way. On Friday, he cashed four treys to keep Duke on the move in the second half.
VCU looked solid most of the night, even in defeat. It’s going to be interesting to chart the Rams’ progress this season, the first in the post-Shaka Smart era. Better evaluations on this team will require at least another six to eight games.
One other development worth noting for Duke: Freshman point guard Derryck Thornton started — and put up 19 points. This is key, as Thornton’s been played down by Krzyzewski in the past six weeks. He’s not the same kind of point guard Tyus Jones was for Duke last season, and he’s not being asked to take control of the offense the way Jones was.
But to have him show up like this means Duke could be better sooner than even Krzyzewski expects. He was good on a night when Duke wasn’t completely itself, but thanks to Allen and Thornton, it was more than enough.
This result gives us a game worth watching come Sunday at MSG. The Blue Devils will meet up with Georgetown, as the Hoyas took care of Wisconsin with some ease earlier Friday.