Grayson Allen’s Senior Night couldn’t come against a better opponent.
Allen plays his final game in Cameron on Saturday night, and it will be his ninth Duke-Carolina game.
“I’ve been in a bunch of great ones,” he said. “Starting my freshman year. I remember the game here in Cameron. The comeback we were able to pull off with Jahlil (Okafor), Tyus (Jones) and Justise (Winslow) leading the way.”
Now Allen will be leading the way, as Duke bids farewell to its lone remaining player from the class of 2018.
“I hope he has a great night tomorrow,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “If you look in the stands, there will be a number of people shedding tears.”
There’s a good chance the Hall of Fame coach will be one of them.
“I get pretty emotional,” Krzyzewski said. “I love my guys. We have good guys. Grayson’s been a good guy.”
Duke will be playing for the second seed in the ACC Tournament, an inside track on playing the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament in nearby Charlotte and revenge for North Carolina’s February win at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill.
“I think we’re a much tougher team than we were when we played them the first time,” said Javin DeLaurier. “We’ve grown a lot, especially defensively and how together we are. I think we’re much better in those aspects, and we’ll be able to show that.”
Krzyzewski said Duke would focus on limiting the Tar Heels’ offensive rebounding, after they got 20 in the first meeting, as well as taking care of the ball. Virginia Tech forced 18 Duke turnovers in Monday’s upset win over the Blue Devils.
“Turnovers and what not so they can’t get quite as many points in transition and second-chance points,” DeLaurier echoed. “That’s what killed us the first time.”
Win or lose, at some point late in Saturday’s game, Allen will come over to the Duke sideline for the final time at Cameron Indoor Stadium and share a gut-wrenching hug with his coach.
“Through the highest of points in my career and the lowest of points, he’s been there,” Allen said. “I’m very thankful to have a coach like that. I’m very blessed to go through a career with someone like that by my side.”
“He’s had a fabulous career,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s a national champion. He’s been an All-American. He’s one of three guys in the history of our program that’s a four-time Academic All-ACC. Amile Jefferson and Quinn Snyder were the other two. … I actually met with him earlier this morning to talk about his emotions and just to thank him for the four years representing our program the way he has.”
Regardless of the result, the night will be an emotional one. Still, there’s only one result that will satisfy Allen.
“I’m trying to win,” he said. “I think you remember your senior night for if you won or lost, not how many points you score. For me, it’s not a personal thing to go out there and make it my best personal game. We need to win, not only for my senior night, but for the team. We don’t want to end the regular season with two straight losses. We don’t want to end it with a loss, period.”