By Myron Medcalf
ESPN Staff Writer
Mike Krzyzewski seemed relieved after his Duke squad skated past Portland State in the second half of a 99-81 victory at the PK80 tournament on Thursday.
“I thought Portland State played amazingly hard and well,” Krzyzewski said. “They knocked us back.”
The Blue Devils, anchored by Wooden Award candidate Grayson Allenand ESPN’s top-rated recruiting class, had a significant size advantage over the Vikings. But the latter had experience and no fear of the ACC powerhouse.
An upset would have followed a trend. On Wednesday, Division II Chaminade ran California off the floor in a 96-72 win in the Maui Invitational. That same day, NC State upset Arizona, which shot 12 percent from the 3-point line, after Tennessee beat Purdue in overtime, both in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Duke was in trouble, it seemed, on Thursday.
By halftime, Portland State had amassed a 49-45 lead and hushed the Duke supporters who’d flown to the West Coast to watch America’s No. 1 team. The Vikings made 50 percent of their 3-pointers, hit all eight free-throw attempts and committed just one turnover before the break.
“You know what happens sometimes too when you’re in a tournament? You assume you’re going to play Sunday night — especially when you’re young, you assume that,” Krzyzewski said. “And [the Vikings did not] assume that. Their game is today, so an older team understands that today is our game, too. It became our game in the second half.”
Freshmen Marvin Bagley III (18 points, 15 rebounds), Tre Duval (22 points, 7-for-14 shooting) and Wendell Carter Jr. (16 points, 10 rebounds) helped Duke overcome poor shooting efforts by Gary Trent Jr. and Allen — 4-for-15 combined — and matched the aggression of Portland State’s veteran players.
Allen and PSU’s Bryce Canda (14 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) drew double technical fouls in the second half for trash talk.
Deontae North led Portland State in scoring (24 points) and technical fouls (two). He drew the first when he appeared to throw a punch at Carter in a fight for a loose ball. He picked up the second down the stretch when he said something that bothered an official while he waited to check into the game. His squad was still locked in a single-digit game against the national-title favorites.
And then, Duke dominated the final 10 minutes against a PSU squad that made just 5 of 19 shots from beyond the arc after the break.
Bagley said his team needed a game like this. The Blue Devils have as much talent as any team in America. But they’ll need more time, Bagley said, to evolve together and grow as a group.
“Going into the second half, it was just, we had to wake up,” Bagley said.