UPDATED Thursday, 9:22 a.m.
GREENSBORO — Duke University junior guard Grayson Allen didn't bury too many shots on Wednesday against Elon University, but he did plunge his head into a Gatorade towel.
With four minutes to go in the first half, Allen was defending Elon sophomore guard Steven Santa Ana when Santa Ana drove baseline. The two collided and Allen was whistled for a foul. Then, in a flash, Santa Ana was tumbling to the ground after Allen swung his leg at Santa Ana, tripping him. Allen was docked with a technical foul, which Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said was "unacceptable," and a turning point in a surprisingly competitive first half.
Duke won the contest 72-61, but there was no celebration. Instead, Allen sulked in his locker. After a sophomore season that involved tripping two other opponents, the Blue Devil has gone on record saying he wants to brighten his image, which has been marred with a dirty player stereotype. The exact opposite happened.
Now, his head most likely throbbed from the weight of the immediate viral criticisms that were only a click or scroll away and the embarrassing distraction he gave his coach and teammates.
Grayson Allen in locker room.
"I made a bad play— something I wish I hadn't done," Allen mumbled almost inaudibly as his face turned red with tears. "I'm sorry to Santa Ana, his whole team and my whole team. It was just a selfish play."
In the postgame handshake line immediately after the game, Santa Ana and Allen shook hands and embraced each other. Media locker room access was also prolonged 30 minutes while the two players, Krzyzewski and Elon coach Matt Matheny chatted in the coaches' lounge. Santa Ana accepted his apology, citing that they both play with fire and understands that tempers can sometimes ooze onto the court.
"He's a hard competitor like everyone on the court and we just got tangled up and that was that, it was nothing more than that," said Santa Ana, who dropped 11 points. "He came up to me and apologized to me and he was really sincere about it ... I think we were just out there competing. We were playing basketball and that’s what happens sometimes."
Coach Matheny and Steven Santa Ana on after Duke game.
In Matheny's eyes, he and his team want to move on from the incident. But national media has already pounced, with multiple pundits calling for Allen's suspension. ESPN commentator and former Duke star Jay Williams called Allen a "spoiled child," while ESPN columnist Dana O'Neil writes that there is "no excuse" for the USA Olympic coach not to take action.
Krzyzewski said that the 6-foot 5 junior, whose performance in the 2015 national championship thrust him into the spotlight, was punished during the game by distracting his team. But while Krzyzewski said more discipline will occur behind closed doors, his decisions will not be based off anyone else's opinion and that he was proud of Allen for apologizing.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski after Elon game.
"I don't need to satisfy what other people think I should do," Krzyzewski sad. "I'm a teacher and a coach. I'm responsible for that kid. I know him better than anybody. Obviously we will do more — doesn't mean you have to see it or anybody else has to see it — but what he did tonight was right. That's what people do. They say their sorry, they accept responsibility."
On Thursday morning, Krzyzewski announced an indefinite suspension for Allen.