Duke's Little-Known Freshman Turns Savior When It Mattered The Most

With their team trailing and star players on the bench, Duke found a new hero.

grayson allen

Before today, little was known about Duke guard Grayson Allen. But now that the NCAA National Championship is over, he is the talk of the town – quite literally. His name is among the top 10 trends on Twitter, and folks will surely be scrambling to create his Wikipedia profile.

While the Blue Devils' big man Jahlil Okafor has grabbed the headlines all over for his potential NBA value, it was Allen who stepped up when Duke were in a hole at the most critical juncture of the season.

Down by nine points early in the second half, a Wisconsin victory was in the cards. Okafor and others who had carried Duke to this point were victims of some atrocious refereeing on the night. With them on the sidelines owing to foul trouble, coach Mike Krzyzewski needed to find inspiration elsewhere.

Duke claims fifth NCAA men's basketball crown

And he did just that when Allen decided to take matters in his own hands. With less than 13 minutes on the clock and the title slipping out of their grip with each passing second, Allen scored eight consecutive points. The 6'4 freshman became Duke's go-to guy as they outscored the Badgers 11-3 in a superb run that paved way for an eventual 68-63 win.

He ended the night with 16 points despite his pre-final game average being just four points. Seeing him thrive against the Wisconsin defense, his fellow guard Tyus Jones also stepped up. The two combined to score 23 of their combined 39 points during that season or even career-defining stretch.

"We were dead in the water," Krzyzewski said. "We were nine points down, and Grayson put us on his back. And once he got us in striking distance, we just said, 'Tyus, run high ball screen, and be you.' That’s great coaching, I guess."

Duke surges past Wisconsin to win fifth NCAA basketball championship

After his heroics won Duke their fifth title, Allen, who models his game on NBA dunk machine Vince Carter, said: "You know, to be in the position where you're coming off the bench, and these guys still support me and put confidence in me, I knew I was capable of doing it just because of what they've been telling me all year."

Perhaps, it's true: when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And Allen definitely is a tough player who didn't wither under pressure but showed his clutch play instead. 

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