CHICAGO – Grayson Allen dribbled around the screen and launched the shot, with Michigan State defenders in his face again.
He landed. He crouched.
With two of the leading candidates for national player of the year on the court, Allen left no question that he got the best of Miles Bridges.
The Blue Devils senior scored a game-high 37 points, including seven three-pointers, and connected with two big 3-pointers in the final 2:25 to help No. 1 Duke hold off the No. 2 Spartans, 88-81, in the Champions Classic on Tuesday night at United Center.
Bridges kept MSU (1-1) in the game with 16 of his 19 points in the second half. But he also missed a deep 3-pointer with the Spartans down three points, then left Allen open for a 3 at the other end that gave Duke (3-0) the momentum to pull away.
Nick Ward and Jaren Jackson also each had 19 points for MSU, which committed 17 turnovers.
MSU threw the first punch early, getting six of its first eight points on the break. That included a pair of layups by Ward.
But Duke quickly responded, thanks to Allen getting fouled by Matt McQuaid while shooting a 3-pointer and making all three ensuing free throws. That sparked a 17- 6 run that included 13 straight points by the Blue Devils.
Midway through the half, Duke phenom freshman Marvin Bagley III left after getting poked in the eye by a teammate going for a rebound. That’s when the Spartans answered by finding their range from deep. After missing their first five from behind the arc, Jackson hit two 3-pointers and Bridges added another, followed by a Ward layup for an 11-0 MSU counter-punch.
The teams traded leads until Allen was fouled again shooting a 3-pointer, this time barely touched by Cassius Winston, and hit all three free throws and buried a 3 from well beyond the arc as time expired in the first half, part of an 8-0 closing run that gave Duke a 38-34 halftime lead.
Mild Miles, Jittery Jaren
Preseason Big Ten player of the year and national player of the year candidate Bridges was quiet in the first half, with the Spartans struggling to get him the ball against Duke’s 2-3 sticky and quick zone.
The 6-foot-7 swingman made just 1 of 3 shots in the half – that 3-pointer in the big run – and added three rebounds and three blocks with two turnovers.
MSU’s offense perked up with the 6-11 Jackson hit his shots outside, calming down after a skittish start in which he had three first-half turnovers.
Bridges finished 7 of 15 from the floor, including 5 of 10 from 3-point range, and added five rebounds and four assists. However, he also had five turnovers, tied for the most with Winston.
Winston also finished with 11 assists, while Joshua Langford had nine points. The Spartans were 9 for 25 from 3-point range and got outrebounded, 46-35.
Every time Duke needed a play to shift momentum, Allen was the one who delivered. He hit foul-line jumpers at will over Langford and Matt McQuaid and drilled a three-pointer with McQuaid in his face after MSU tied the game at 56.
But as the Spartans focused in on Allen in the second half when things got tight, freshman point guard Trevon Duval started making big shots to stem MSU’s momentum. Then as MSU took a 2-point lead after a hustle rebound and reward dunk by Kenny Goins, two more freshmen – Wendell Carter Jr. and Gary Trent Jr. – each pulled the Blue Devils back in front.
After the final media time-out, Bridges launched an ill-advised deep 3-pointer that missed. At the other end, he lost his man for an open triple.
It was Allen.
Allen finished 11 of 20, including 7-for-11 from deep, and a perfect 8 of 8 at the free-throw line.
Duke was 19 of 29 at the free-throw line as a team, while MSU was 10-for-18.
What does it all mean?
The Spartans have some time to digest this defeat before they host Stony Brook on Sunday (4 p.m., Big Ten Network) in the campus game of the PK80 Phil Knight Invitational tournament. They’ll shift to Portland, Ore., for the rest of the tourney that begins against DePaul on Thanksgiving night (11:30 p.m., ESPN).
The loss against the Blue Devils showed the trouble points for MSU – turnovers, sloppy play – along with the ability to compete against the nation’s top team punch for play for play – the game was tied 11 times, with nine lead changes.
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