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Paolo Banchero, No. 5 Duke Upset Chet Holmgren, No. 1 Gonzaga 84-81

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVNovember 27, 2021

Lance King/Getty Images

Paolo Banchero scored 21 points Saturday night to pace No. 5 Duke in an 84-81 victory over No. 1 Gonzaga in the 2021 Continental Tire Challenge at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Wendell Moore Jr. added 20 points, six rebounds, six assists and four steals for the Blue Devils, who improved to 7-0 on the 2021-22 season. Mark Williams chipped in 17 points and nine boards.

"This was a really big-time game," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters. "What a great crowd."

Julian Strawther (20 points), Drew Timme (17), Chet Holmgren (16) and Rasir Bolton (15) all scored in double figures for the Zags, but it wasn't enough to prevent their first loss of the campaign as they fell to 6-1.

Saturday's early-season clash of national championship contenders lived up to the hype with a back-and-forth battle that went right down to the wire.

The key sequence came when a Jeremy Roach layup gave Duke a three-point lead with 42 seconds remaining and Gonzaga failed to score on the ensuing possession. A subsequent pair of Moore free throws extended the advantage to five for the Blue Devils, who held on for the minor upset.

"It felt like a Final Four-type game," Timme told reporters. "The atmosphere was great, and it was two Goliaths going at it."

Gonzaga head coach Mark Few gave credit to Duke not only for Saturday's win but also for Krzyzewski's work creating a program that's one of the nation's gold standards. Coach K is set to retire at season's end.

"We've always asked over the years before we've had to make decisions on anything—how we travel, how we operate, how we schedule, facility-wise—the first question always is, 'What's Duke doing?'" Few said. "I don't think I can pay any higher respect than that."

The Bulldogs finished the game with more fouls (24-15), which helped Duke hold an eight-point edge from the free-throw line, and more than double the turnovers (17-8). Those two categories were key in a game that wasn't decided until the final minute.

It's the second top-10 win of the campaign for the Blue Devils, who opened the season with a triumph over No. 10 Kentucky on Nov. 9. They don't have another game against a currently ranked opponent on their schedule as part of what's shaping up as a down year for the ACC.

Next up for Duke is a visit to Value City Arena on Tuesday to face off with Ohio State (4-2) as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Meanwhile, Gonzaga probably won't lose its status as the title favorite despite the loss, as it already had wins over No. 5 Texas and No. 2 UCLA under its belt.

The Zags return home to the McCarthey Athletic Center to face off with Tarleton State (1-5) on Monday.

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