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Duke Holds On To Beat Georgetown, 86-84

As the Blue Devils win the 2015 2K Classic.

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Nov 22, 2015; New York, NY, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Grayson Allen (3) shoots the ball over Georgetown Hoyas center Jessie Govan (15) during the first half at Madison Square Garden.
Nov 22, 2015; New York, NY, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Grayson Allen (3) shoots the ball over Georgetown Hoyas center Jessie Govan (15) during the first half at Madison Square Garden.
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The Georgetown game showed just how far Duke has come since losing to Kentucky a few short days ago.

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In that game, Duke had no real point guard and Grayson Allen was somewhat lost.

Duke played fairly well against VCU though and while the Blue Devils didn't start out great against Georgetown - in particular the first 10 minutes or so Duke was, in Coach K's word, "disorganized" on offense - things settled down.

He might have added disorganized or at least not great on defense early on.

Georgetown was penetrating with ease. Duke seemed almost incapable of stopping the Hoyas, not least of all in transition.

In the first half, Georgetown nearly got to 80% from two point range.

But that changed. Duke did two basic things: it went to a smaller lineup and started zoning.

The smaller lineup allowed Duke to keep up and the zone helped to slow Georgetown down.

Big lineup or small, though, Allen had an incredible game.

As Coach K pointed out afterwards, Allen scored 32 points...on twelve shots (9-12). And of those, he hit 5-6 from three point range.

His offensive game is somewhat reminiscent of JJ Redick's, but Allen is a better all-around scorer than Redick was. Redick was an astonishing shooter. He scared people because he could easily score 25 points in a half.

Allen's not necessarily as explosive - yet - but he can hit threes too and in his wildest dreams Redick has never jumped the way Allen does.

Redick took his great gift and lifted the rest of his game to an NBA level. Allen has NBA athleticism. He needs the sort of positive arrogance Redick has always had, but that'll come.

In the last two games, by the way, Allen has shot 18-27 overall and 9-14 from three point range. He's also hit 17-18 from the line.

And he's also had 11 rebounds and seven assists.

As Brennon Eamon put it, Duke's not a juggernaut but Allen is.

And that's a fair criticism.

Duke has talent - some hugely promising talent in fact - but the young kids are going to take some time to get up to speed.

In particular, Brandon Ingram.

He has amazing gifts and his potential is huge. But he's ridiculously thin for a college basketball player, and correspondingly unable to assert himself in a crowd.

It's not his fault of course. He's got a slender frame and he shot up to 6-9. Yes he can run, jump, and he has in many ways an ideal build for the game. But he has minimal power at this point.

He'll catch up; it'll just take time.

It's a similar situation for Chase Jeter, who has a bigger frame but not the muscle yet to assert himself. They're just going to have to get stronger and in the meantime, get by on guile.

Even so, both guys were far, far better Sunday than they were against Kentucky or VCU.

So were Derryck Thornton and Luke Kennard.

Thornton looks to have cemented himself as the starting point guard. He's far from a finished product - he made plenty of mistakes on defense, both in man-to-man and zone - but he's growing into the job quickly.

Kennard shoots as well as anyone on this team, but we haven't seen that yet. What we have seen is a bit of tentative play. And there was much less of that against Georgetown than there was against Kentucky or VCU.

He's just about caught on to the speed of the game. Hitting some shots will be a huge boost to his confidence, but he'll be a clear factor before long. Right now his contributions are kind of quiet. He comes in, plays solidly for the most part, then sits down again. Essentially he's already competent but not completely confident. Like Allen, he could rip off 15 or 20 points in a big hurry.

As for the other veterans, all three are career role players who are being asked to step up and do more. And they've all responded.

Matt Jones is scoring more, rebounding more, handling the ball more - essentially taking responsibilities everywhere. Amile Jefferson, who willingly sat last year to allow Justise Winslow to start, has become an excellent rebounder and has been more aggressive about scoring.

And despite fouling out Sunday, Marshall Plumlee has been more consistent, more under control, and more powerful than at any point in his career.

As he showed against Kentucky, there will be times when he asserts himself offensively, but basically he's sort of like a more athletic Brian Zoubek: a big, strong mean guy in the post to rebound, defend and block shots. Earlier in his career, you could see guys on the court urging him to calm down and play under control. No one is doing that anymore. Plumlee is  leader now and he seems good at it.

So all in all, while this team has many remaining flaws, it has improved dramatically in, basically, just  few days.

It'll be much better when Ingram is comfortable and when Kennard's offense is reliable. And against Georgetown, for the first time in a big game, Jeter was a reliable presence.

Allen is on a pace to do remarkable things. After five games he's averaging 24.4 ppg. Toss out the Kentucky anomaly and it's 29.

And (again) toss out the Kentucky game and Kennard has increased his scoring in every game.

But the measure of Duke's success is likely to be this: driving Allen's scoring down.

Coach K has never hesitated to "ride a horse," as he puts it, but every great player needs help.

Allen needs help and a lot of it is ultimately going to come from the freshmen. Clearly he's capable of big nights, and you can win with one dominant scorer. But balanced scoring always works better in the long run and takes teams further too. So if his scoring average comes down to say, 19 or 20, and Duke is still winning, that's really good news.

Duke plays Yale on Wednesday. It'll be interesting to see what Duke is focusing on. Pay particular attention to the beginnings of each half.