Grayson Allen accompanied his Duke teammates to Cassell Coliseum on Saturday, bearing witness to a one-sided beating while unable to help the No. 5 Blue Devils.
Sitting on the bench in street clothes, Allen served the first game of what’s still being called an indefinite suspension from competition.
Allen landed in this predicament because, in frustration, he tripped Elon’s Steven Santa Ana on Dec. 21 when the teams played at the Greensboro Coliseum. It’s the third time Allen’s been caught tripping opponents during a game in 2016.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski announced the suspension the following day and the ACC, having been involved in conversations about the situation, announced its support for the move.
On Saturday, after Virginia Tech manhandled Duke 89-75 in the teams’ ACC opener, Krzyzewski announced further discipline for Allen. The junior guard is no longer one of Duke’s team captains.
Seniors Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones will continue as co-captains.
“Only Amile and Matt are doing that,” Krzyzewski said.
The sold-out crowd on Saturday certainly noticed Allen’s presence on Duke’s bench. The Virginia Tech students frequently chanted “We want Grayson” throughout their team’s win. A few times they chanted “Please don’t trip us.”
Allen, a preseason All-American guard and a candidate for ACC player of the year, averaged 16 points per game this season prior to his suspension. Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams called him among the nation’s top scoring guards and a big reason why Duke had the nation’s most efficient offense entering Saturday’s game.
Without Allen, Duke (12-2, 0-1 ACC) played like a team with scattered priorities against Virginia Tech. The Blue Devils lacked togetherness on both ends of the court and never led against the fired-up Hokies.
“I think that it just epitomizes the intensity of the ACC,” Jones said. “Guys are going to come after us night in and night out, and we have to prepare for that. They came out and hit us in the mouth and we had to prepare for that.”
When asked if the team missed Allen, Jefferson spoke more in generalities
“We missed our heart,” Jefferson said. “We missed a lot of things tonight. We missed Duke.”
Krzyzewski didn’t mince words about Allen’s absence from the lineup.
“He was part of the loss today by not being there,” Krzyzewski said.
He was part of the loss today by not being there.
Mike Krzyzewski on Grayson Allen
With Allen out, Duke started Frank Jackson at guard along with usual starters Jones and Luke Kennard. Freshman Jayson Tatum started for the fourth time in six games at small forward with Jefferson at center.
Jackson didn’t play well, however. He scored just six points and committed four fouls, with three of them coming in the first half as he and the Blue Devils struggled defensively.
“We have to be more connected together,” Jackson said. “Virginia Tech was connected. They were talking. They were prepared. I think we just have to stay connected and fight together.”
Duke has two home games at Cameron Indoor Stadium to get things right. The Blue Devils play Georgia Tech on Wednesday (7 p.m., ESPN2) and Boston College on Saturday (2 p.m., Fox Sports South).
After that Duke plays its next two games at Florida State and Louisville, both of which are ranked in The Associated Press Top 25.
Krzyzewski is staying quiet about when Allen will return. Duke has already dealt with injuries that kept Tatum, Jackson and fellow freshman Harry Giles and Marques Bolden out of games this season.
All four are healthy and played against Virginia Tech. But now Allen is out for a different reason, and the Blue Devils look out of sync.
“It’s unfortunate for any team to have interruptions,” Krzyzewski said. “And sometimes you have no control over them like an injury or sickness, whatever. Sometimes something like this happens. But we’ve had a lot of interruptions. So we have to stop having interruptions.”
Steve Wiseman: 919.419.6671; @stevewisemanNC