Before the 2017-18 college basketball season tipped off, all of the attention in Durham, North Carolina, was directed at the Duke Blue Devils' four new freshman phenoms.
But on Tuesday night, it was senior Grayson Allen who reminded the rest of the country he's still running the show as he led the nation's top-ranked team to an 88-81 win over the No. 2 Michigan State Spartans in the Champions Classic at United Center in Chicago.
Allen, whose tumultuous junior campaign was defined by injuries and temper tantrums, propelled the Blue Devils to a 3-0 start behind a career-high 37 points on 11-of-20 shooting, including 7-of-11 from three.
Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman noted Allen's smooth shooting chops should serve him well as he prepares for a future in the NBA:
The senior's contributions were particularly big since 5-star recruit and projected lottery pick Marvin Bagley III (four points, six rebounds) was forced to leave the game midway through the first half after he was inadvertently poked in the eye by teammate Javin DeLaurier.
But despite Bagley's early exit, the Blue Devils had plenty to be pleased about when it came to their newest additions.
Point guard Trevon Duval was electric in the open floor throughout, and he helped provide stability on both ends of the floor with 17 points (7-of-20 shooting), a team-high 10 assists and six steals.
NBC Sports' Rob Dauster observed that if Duval refines his stroke, he could soon be special:
While Duval helped hold down the backcourt beside Allen, freshman forward Wendell Carter Jr. proved huge on the interior with 12 points and 12 boards.
All told, Duke out-rebounded the Spartans 25-11 on the offensive glass and attempted 15 more shots than the opposition. Those extra looks proved key, too, because the Blue Devils shot just 39.5 percent from the field compared to Michigan State's robust mark of 50.8 percent.
When it came to the Spartans' offense, Nick Ward, Jaren Jackson Jr. and sophomore sensation Miles Bridges each chipped in 19 points.
Jackson Jr., the springy freshman forward with a seemingly never-ending wingspan, proved the most prolific of that bunch and flashed his versatility by making seven of 10 shots, including three from distance, while blocking three shots and collecting seven boards.
Not surprisingly, praise poured in from several analysts as Jackson Jr. made an early statement against Duke's robust front line:
The issue for the Spartans was two-fold.
Not only were they crushed on the boards, but they also committed 17 turnovers compared to Duke's nine, with Bridges responsible for five of them.
Now 1-1, the Spartans will seek their second win of the season Sunday at home against the Stony Brook Seawolves.
The 3-0 Blue Devils, meanwhile, are slated to host the Southern Jaguars on Friday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.