With the player who led No. 5 Duke to a first-half lead limited by cramping after halftime, the Blue Devils showed they are far more than a one-man team against No. 1 Gonzaga.
With Paolo Banchero only able to score one of his 21 points after halftime, Wendell Moore’s 20 points and 17 more from Mark Williams propelled the Blue Devils to an 84-81 win before a crowd of 20,389 at T-Mobile Arena.
With Banchero in and out of the lineup over the final 14 minutes, Moore took charge as the Blue Devils erased Gonzaga’s 70-66 lead in the final 8:16 of play.
Moore hit five free throws in the final 1:11 as the Blue Devils held on to remain unbeaten.
Julian Strawther scored 20 points for Gonzaga (6-1), while Drew Timme added 17. Rasir Bolten had 15 and Chet Holmgren 16 for the Zags.
Behind Banchero’s 20 points in the game’s first 20 minutes, Duke led by as many as nine points in the first half before taking a 45-42 lead to intermission. But muscle cramps limited his availability after halftime and the Zags took advantage to pull ahead.
Duke led 58-53 after a pair of Theo John baskets. But Gonzaga scored six consecutive points to jump ahead as Banchero headed to the bench with 14:11 to play.
Gonzaga built a lead as large as 70-66 with 8:40 to play before Banchero returned and Duke found a groove again aided by its defense.
The Blue Devils held Gonzaga to just one field goal over the next seven minutes.
Jeremy Roach’s basket, after Williams rebounded Banchero’s missed 3-pointer, tied the game at 73 with 4:41 to play. Moore stole the ball from Holmgren in the backcourt and drew a foul. His two free throws gave Duke a 75-73 lead with 4:31 left.
With 1:51 left, Keels drove the lane to draw a foul. He made one of two free throws for a 76-73 Blue Devils lead.
Timme ended the Zags scoring drought with a bank shot inside, but Moore answered with two free throws at 1:11 for a 78-75 Duke lead.
Holmgren scored on a dunk with 1:01 left but Roach answered him with a drive down the lane for a layup giving Duke an 80-77 lead with 41.2 seconds to play. Moore hit two free throws at 26.1 to put Duke up 82-77 and added another with 17 seconds left for an 83-79 Duke lead.
Here’s what we learned about the Blue Devils from their game with Gonzaga:
Bright lights, Banchero thrives
Paolo Banchero gave everyone a glimpse at his demeanor when he scored 22 points in his collegiate debut when Duke beat Kentucky, 79-71, on Nov. 9 at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
On another big stage in a top-five matchup between the Blue Devils and Gonzaga on Friday night in Las Vegas, the 6-10 freshman put on a show again.
He hit 7 of his first 12 shots, including 3 of 6 points, to score 20 points in the first half alone. He did so while matched up with Gonzaga freshman Chet Holmgren, a 7-footer projected by some to be the No. 1 pick in next summer’s NBA Draft over Banchero.
Of course, just as happened in New York, Banchero suffered from cramping and headed to the locker room to miss a chunk of the game.
Creative approach to Holmgren
Rather than have its biggest player guard Gonzaga’s 7-foot freshman center Chet Holmgren, Duke took a different tactic against the Zags two big men.
Duke started with 6-10, 250-pound freshman Paolo Banchero guard Holmgren while Gonzaga 6-10 junior Drew Timme was guarded by 7-foot sophomore center Mark Williams. Theo John, Duke’s 6-9, 242-pound reserve center, tag-teamed with Williams on Timme.
Duke learned from UCLA
On Tuesday night in the same building, Gonzaga took control immediately against No. 2 UCLA, opening up a 20-point halftime lead. The Bruins never got back into the game and lost 83-63.
Gonzaga scored the first four points against Duke to grab early momentum again. But the Blue Devils never lost their poise, taking their first lead with 18 minutes left in the first half and never trailing again over the first 20 minutes.