Championship teams finish with the game on the line, and that is exactly what the No. 1 Duke Blue Devils did Sunday during an 87-84 victory over the No. 7 Florida Gators in the title game of the Motion Bracket at the PK80-Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Oregon.
Duke trailed by as many as 17 in the second half and faced an 82-72 deficit with less than five minutes remaining but closed the contest on an 8-0 run to seize victory against a quality nonconference opponent.
Marvin Bagley III led the way with 30 points and 15 rebounds and scored the Blue Devils' final two field goals with the game hanging in the balance. Gary Trent Jr. also notched a critical steal and hit four cold-blooded free throws in the final stretch while adding 15 points in support.
Duke is now 8-0 after beating Florida, Texas and Portland State, while Florida dropped to 5-1 and can take solace knowing it added victories over Stanford and Gonzaga to its early resume during the tournament.
The Blue Devils played the role of comeback kids in the PK80 considering they also trailed Portland State at the half and prevailed in overtime against Texas after facing a double-digit deficit.
It was more of the same Sunday, as it appeared Jalen Hudson and the Gators were going to run away with the victory after jumping out to a 21-6 advantage in the opening minutes.
However, Duke cut the deficit to four by halftime and relied on Bagley whenever it needed a critical bucket despite Florida's dominating extended stretches. It wasn't just that the freshman demonstrated why he may be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft with his production; it was the fact he covered for other areas of concern for the Blue Devils.
Duke's backcourt had trouble matching Florida's athleticism, as the SEC representative forced four turnovers from Grayson Allen and held Trevon Duval to 1-of-6 shooting from three-point range.
They still scored 14 and 11 points, respectively, but Seth Davis of CBS Sports pointed to some of the difficulties against Florida's swarming group:
Enter Bagley, who put the team on his back as the only Blue Devil with more than five field goals (10-of-20 shooting) and was the driving force behind the team's 43-36 advantage on the boards against Florida's small-ball lineup.
Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated noted his ability to stand out:
The Gators will be disappointed after blowing such a commanding lead, but they are going to win plenty of contests that don't feature an opponent with a likely future NBA star based on their athleticism and shooting alone.
The 6'8" Keith Stone is Florida's only starter above 6'6", but the Gators made up for their lack of size by spacing the floor with shooters and getting out in transition when opportunities arose. What's more, Duke's defense was forced to honor the outside shot, creating lanes for the Gators to attack off the bounce.
As a result, the points came in waves for the potent offense, and Duke's defense had trouble even setting before ball-handlers fired up shots. It was the same formula that led to 108 points against Stanford and 111 points against Gonzaga and was largely successful against Mike Krzyzewski's group until the closing stretch.
Hudson played the role of primary playmaker by slicing through the Blue Devils on the perimeter and even battling the bigs down low for boards. He finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds and drew rave reviews from Lindsay Schnell of USA Today:
His rebounding helped cover for the potential weakness of the smaller lineup, and, like Bagley, he was the only Florida player to finish with more than five field goals (10-of-20).
It wasn't just the Hudson show, as KeVaughn Allen added 17 points and Egor Koulechov scored 15, but none of the Gators were able to match Bagley basket-for-basket.
The tests won't stop for these teams following Sunday's contest, as Duke will turn its attention toward Wednesday's Big Ten-ACC Challenge showdown at Indiana, while Florida will prepare for a rivalry game against Florida State on Dec. 4.