Grayson Allen is good but Duke's other star Marvin Bagley III is already shining bright
Bagley's performance on Friday invoked records with names like Redick and Laettner attached to them
PORTLAND — Mike Krzyzewski's coached through some uncanny comebacks in his career, but Duke's 85-78 overtime conquering of Texas on Friday was unlike anything the Hall of Fame coach has been a part of.
His greatest comeback? No. But perhaps the most unnatural.
Texas, which might need a few weeks to get over blowing this one, came out looking like the better team and continued to play that way well into the second half. Meantime, the highly-hyped matchup between Mohamed Bamba and Marvin Bagley III only sporadically gave us a chance to see the two face each other.
Instead, UT's Dylan Osetkowski played like the best big on the floor for the first 30 minutes. Texas led by as many as 16 in the second half and looked like it was en route to being the biggest story in Portland this Thanksgiving weekend.
What transpired over the final 13 minutes of game play firmed up what's long been presumed: Duke will be so tough to beat this season because it has a strong case for boasting the best senior and freshman in college basketball. Duke's run to its sixth-best comeback in program history started with a 3-pointer by the senior, Grayson Allen, with 7:43 left in the second half. What came next was a harbinger of the unfortunate for UT.
Osetkowski bizarrely missed a dunk on the next possession. Allen followed up with missed a 3 -- but Bagley was there to clean it up. A Texas timeout was followed by a Longhorns turnover -- and Bagley dunk in transition. Within 62 seconds left, the lead squinted from 13 to six, and Duke's comeback was on.
Bagley, typically productive in his nonchalant style, took over the rest of the way. Allen fouled out with two minutes remaining in a 70-all game. Krzyzewski -- for the first time ever -- had to watch his team try win a game with five freshmen on the floor.
"When Grayson fouled out," Krzyzewski said, "[the game] could've turned."
But Duke had Marvin. And although the Blue Devils failed to capitalize in regulation, Bagley put up eight points in OT to finish with 34, plus he snagged five rebounds. Bagley robbed Texas of its first win against Duke (0-5) and first victory over a No. 1 ranked team (0-10). Texas led for 37 minutes and lost.
"It's simply incredible," Allen said. "He's not hitting step-back jumpers, he's not doing anything crazy. Everything is just super efficient, super simple but at the same time unstoppable because of who he is, his athleticism. I think he'll continue to have performances like this, we're content to tell him to demand the ball. I think he needs to do it even more than he did tonight. Just keep going through him and making the defense figure out a way to stop him."
That's Allen, a former All-American, lobbying for a future NBA franchise player to get more touches, score more points and be an even bigger part of the offense. For a guy that's averaging 21 points and 11 rebounds. Unselfish stuff from Allen, who was all smiles in the locker room afterward.
Bagley's 34 points on Friday tied J.J. Redick's single-game scoring record by a freshman.
The 34-and-15 marked the second time a Coach K player put up those numbers. The other one's named Laettner.
Bagley's five double-doubles through seven games is a Duke freshman record. And he's only the third player Krzyzewski's had to go back-to-back games with 15 rebounds.
It's ridiculous that we're not even to December and Bagley's already entering into this territory. This what-record-is-in-jeopardy-tonight territory. There is no longer any question about Bagley's ability or curiosity regarding his potential. It's evident, and he's must-see. He has truly transformed Duke's outlook this season. Real Deal -- capital R, capital L.
Fair to say he's exceeded the hype, which was tough to fathom on the eve of the season opener. Krzyzewski's already as trusting of No. 35 -- just seven games into his college career -- as perhaps any other freshman he's had.
"I believe, ultimately, in this kid," Krzyzewski said. "I knew he was going to be good, but watching him every day, he's a treasure, really. Because he wants to be really good and he comes to work every. I coached the US team for a long time, and he's of that ilk. He has it, and he has to keep developing it."
It will be fun to watch him develop, because it already looks easy. He's got a case -- and he's making it while Allen also has been very good to start the season -- for being the (very early) frontrunner National Player of the Year. Duke's in this interesting spot right now because it's an undefeated club with another legitimate challenge coming in Sunday's PK80 championship game. Yet Bagley's got almost no room for criticism at this point.
Unless you ask him.
"I'm not as good as I want to be," Bagley said. "I got a lot of work to do, I've got a long way to go. I understand that I had a good game, a great game, now it's over with and I put it behind me. Now it's the next one, and the next one after that."
Duke trailed on Thursday at halftime to Portland State, then looked ready to take its first loss vs. Texas. Yet it had just enough. If Bagley's not in uniform, Duke probably loses by double digits to Shaka Smart's team. He's covering up a lot of warts right now. The defense leaves a lot of room for concern (especially in transition). There's a lack of depth and below-average 3-point shooting to account for. This new zone concept that Krzyzewski's adopted is a work in progress, evidenced by his abandonment of the zone in the second half.
"We're not this well-oiled machine or something," Krzyzewski said. "We're trying to find out who we are."
Who Duke is is Marvin, Grayson and a cast of players that will need a season to catch up to their teammates. He's the best talent on this team, and while Allen's the undisputed leader, it looks like the Blue Devils have two stars capable of taking over at any point against any opponent. Duke's going to take some loses, and probably soon. There's a lot to figure out. What needs no discovery is Bagley's ceiling. Let's stop looking for it, because it's not in view, not at the D-I level.
College basketball's lucky to have him. Few big men have made the start of their college careers look this effortless while producing so much.
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