Shot that wouldn’t fall leads to end of Allen’s crazy career
OMAHA, Neb. — Grayson Allen curled to the left side of the lane, jumped and kicked out his left leg a bit as he let fly the shot that would send Duke to the Final Four over two Kansas defenders.
With the clock showing less than a second left in regulation, the ball teasingly bounced off the backboard, hit the front of the rim, bounced off the backboard and rim once more — and swirled out to the right.
“I thought it was in,” star big man Marvin Bagley III said.
So did Allen, who watched as the ball fell away. Sunday’s game stayed tied 72-72 and was headed for overtime. Kansas’ Malik Newman, the Midwest Region Most Outstanding player, took over from there, and the Jayhawks won 85-81 .
Season over for Duke. Career over for Allen.
“Yeah, that thing rolled around the rim about four times,” Allen said. “I thought it was going in. It’s not a good feeling.”
Allen never found his rhythm in Omaha. He was 7 for 28 in games against Syracuse and Kansas, 5 for 23 on 3-pointers. He made clutch free throws late in regulation to keep the Blue Devils tied or in the lead against Kansas. His only field goal since the first half, though, was a meaningless 3-pointer four seconds before Kansas started celebrating its victory.
Allen’s four seasons at Duke were over, and off the court walked — depending on your perspective — one of the most reviled or celebrated college basketball players in America.
“It’s like a shock to your body because you don’t plan for a loss,” Allen said. “You expect to keep going and going. Then it’s so abrupt when it hits you. It’s over. I can’t really wrap my head around it yet.”
It was at the 2015 Final Four that Allen burst onto the scene. He was the fourth and often overlooked member of Duke’s heralded freshman class that year. He ended up scoring 16 points in the national championship game in a win over Wisconsin that gave the Blue Devils their fifth title.
He put off entering the NBA draft after his sophomore and junior years because he loved Duke, loved college basketball and wanted a chance to play for another Final Four and championship.
“He’s a 2,000-point scorer. He’s a national champion. He’s been our leader this year,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He’s one of the outstanding players to have ever played in our program.”
For all he did statistically as a playmaker and 14.1-point career scorer, Krzyzewski remembers him this season for his leadership and ability to mesh with four outstanding freshmen in the lineup, especially after the switch to a zone defense in mid-February.
“And you’re a shot away, a roll away from being in the Final Four,” Krzyzewski said.
Had that last shot in regulation fallen, it still wouldn’t have undone the things Allen will long be remembered for at Duke. On Saturday, Allen said he had accepted and embraced his reputation among all those Duke haters.
The Atlantic Coast Conference reprimanded him for appearing to deliberately trip two players in 2016. Last year he tripped an opponent and was suspended for one game by Coach K and had his team captain’s title removed.
Allen mostly stayed out of trouble this season, except for when he put a hip check on North Carolina’s Garrison Brooks in the ACC Tournament.
“Obviously I went through a lot of ups and downs, a lot of rough moments, a rough patch last year,” he said.
His hope, of course, was to extend his senior season one more week in San Antonio.
“All my plans for playing in the Final Four aren’t going to happen,” he said. “That’s why it’s hard to grasp. So many emotions come forward at once. I feel I could smile and cry all at once.”
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