Gregg Doyel, email@example.com
April 7, 2015
Duke's Grayson Allen (3) drives to the basket between Wisconsin defenders Josh Gasser, left, and Frank Kaminsky, right, during the first half of the NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament championship game Monday, April 6, 2015, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
March Madness gives us legends we don't forget, even when they play for Duke. Especially when they play for Duke. In the third row of Lucas Oil Stadium, William Allen had no idea the latest Duke legend would be his son, not before the championship game on Monday night and not even after it had happened.
"That wasn't Grayson," Grayson Allen's father told me seconds after Duke's 68-63 victory against Wisconsin. "That was the whole team."
BOX SCORE: Duke 68, Wisconsin 63
No sir, that was Grayson. No less an authority than Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was saying as much afterward, standing on the court after the confetti fell on his fifth national title — more than any coach but that John Wooden dude — and saying "Grayson put us on his back."
Grayson Allen did that, Duke's eighth man becoming the March Madness legend that Duke's title runs so often seem to give us. In 1992 it was Christian Laettner who hit The Shot against Kentucky in the region final. In 2001 it was Mike Dunleavy who hit three shots, all of them 3-pointers, in 43 seconds to break open the national title game against Arizona. Speak Dunleavy's name these days to then-Arizona guard Jason Gardner, as I did on Monday, and Gardner — IndyStar Mr. Basketball in 1999 at North Central, the coach today at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis — sneers and says the following:
"Won't ever forget Dunleavy."
Grayson Allen is the Duke player Wisconsin won't ever forget, even if he's not the likely No. 1 overall NBA draft pick on this Duke team (Jahlil Okafor) or another surefire top-10 NBA pick (Justise Winslow) or even the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four in question (Tyus Jones).
Allen was none of those guys. He's just the guy who put Duke on his back and carried them from the brink not just of defeat, but of a blowout.
Wisconsin led 48-39 with less than 13 minutes to play. Bronson Koenig and Frank Kaminsky were scoring repeatedly, and Duke wasn't just helpless to stop them. Duke was helpless, period. On one possession Kaminsky shot a 3-pointer and missed it short, and there was a fight for the rebound — a fight between three Wisconsin players, Kaminsky and Josh Gasser and Duje Dukan, the only three players near the loose ball. Gasser won it, Koenig cut to the basket for a layup, and Duke was in danger.
Duke was exhausted and in foul trouble. Okafor had picked up his third foul and was out of the game. Winslow had three fouls and was about to join on him on the bench.
The predominantly Wisconsin crowd — everybody in red, and every fan of Final Four victims Kentucky and Michigan State who stuck around for the final — smelled Duke's blood. Wisconsin's swagger king, Sam Dekker, was waving his arms and stoking the crowd for more, and the crowd was giving it.
Duke wasn't just in foul trouble. Duke was in serious trouble.
And then Grayson Allen said no.
Screamed it, actually. He buried a 3-pointer with 12:52 left and started screaming. It was 48-42, Wisconsin. Allen tipped a pass for Wisconsin guard Traevon Jackson, beat Jackson to the ball, was pulled down by Jackson and screamed as a foul was called on Wisconsin. Allen drove into the lane, got hit by the 6-9 Dekker, put the ball in the basket anyway, screamed, and hit the free throw for a three-point play.
It was 48-45, Wisconsin. And Grayson Allen was screaming.
"Let's go! Let's goooooooo!"
In the third row, behind the Duke bench, William and Sherry Allen were smiling. They are a stoic bunch, these parents, and none of it rubbed off on their son.
Go back to Saturday for a moment, when Allen shot a 3-pointer against Michigan State, missed it short, and rushed the basket to grab his rebound. With nobody between him and the rim, the slam-dunk champion from various 2014 national high school events soared in for a stuff and started screaming and flexing. On the sideline on Saturday night, Coach K was screaming at Allen.
"Next play! Next playyyyyyyy!"
Back to Monday night, and the stoic Allen family in the third row and their ballistic son on the court. Allen, who was averaging four points per game entering Monday night, was screaming and trying to take over this game, and doing a damn fine job of it. He had the ball in his hands and was attacking again, and Duje Dukan was fouling him and Allen was going to the line for two more points, giving him eight in a row, and now the Blue Devils trailed just 51-47.
Tyus Jones took over from there, making a three-point play and a jumper and a 3-pointer. Allen wasn't done, burying a jumper that gave Duke its first lead since the first half, 56-54, with 5:26 left. Allen and Jones had scored 24 of Duke's 28 points in the second half.
Allen has done this before, if not on this stage. He scored 18 in his Duke debut, the opener against Presbyterian, and then unleashed a 27-point barrage against Wake Forest on March 4, scoring those 27 points on 11 shots from the field. On this team Allen was averaging just 8.9 minutes per game, not the Blue Devils' sixth man — or even their seventh man — but a player whose importance had increased when shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon was dismissed from the team two days before Allen scored 27 against Wake Forest.
And on Monday night it was Allen, this freshman averaging four points in 8.9 minutes per game, who rescued Duke.
"We went to him exclusively," Krzyzewski said.
In the third row, Grayson Allen's father again was telling me, no, this wasn't a Grayson Allen story. This was a Duke story.
And I was telling Will Allen, yes, sir, but your son's the one we're going to remember. Duke always has that guy. And this year, that guy is your son.
Find Star columnist Gregg Doyel on Twitter at @GreggDoyelStar or atwww.facebook.com/gregg.doyel