The showdown was a big letdown.
No. 7 Duke dealt Gonzaga its worst loss in 20 years and held the Bulldogs to their lowest point total in 25 seasons by administering a 76-41 men’s basketball drubbing Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York.
In one of the world’s most famed arenas, the 15th-ranked Bulldogs absorbed one of their most lopsided defeats. A week after scoring 103 points on Davidson, Gonzaga (8-3) needed a late 3-pointer from Bol Kong to crack the 40-point barrier.
The 41 points were Gonzaga’s fewest since a 62-40 loss to Iowa in the second game of the 1984-85 season. The 35-point setback was the Zags’ worst since they were clobbered by Loyola Marymount 121-84 at the WCC tournament to end the 1989-90 campaign.
“We got throttled in every aspect of basketball,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “Their physical play bothered us as far as finishing shots around the rim. They outrebounded us. We turned the ball over more and they took more free throws. It was just an old-fashioned take you out to the woodshed and beat you down.”
Gonzaga is 1-4 at Madison Square Garden. Two of those losses have come against Duke, which won its sixth straight at MSG and is 21-6 in the building under coach Mike Krzyzewski. Duke is 3-0 at MSG this season.
The Bulldogs were uneven on offense from the start. Their only field goal in the first 7-plus minutes was a dunk by Will Foster on a feed from Matt Bouldin, who returned to the lineup after a one-game absence. Duke used an 18-2 run to wipe out GU’s 10-8 lead. The Blue Devils (9-1) led 31-17 at the half as Gonzaga made just seven field goals while committing 13 turnovers. Duke was 5 of 18 with eight turnovers before settling down at the offensive end.
Duke starting guards Nolan Smith (24 points) and Jon Scheyer (20) combined to outscore Gonzaga. Smith made three second-half 3-pointers as he equaled his career-high point total. Scheyer scored 14 points in the first half. He finished with eight assists and five rebounds. Senior Kyle Singler had nine points and 11 rebounds, a statistic Duke dominated 45-35.
“We both started out kind of wrestling around in there, not getting much accomplished,” Few said. “Then the poise of Singler and Scheyer, and I thought Smith did a really good job of making plays. He took us off the bounce. They kind of broke through their malaise and we never did.”
Robert Sacre led GU with nine points on 2-of-11 shooting. The Zags committed 18 turnovers, including six by Harris and five by Bouldin. GU made 27.8 percent from the field, 1 of 10 3-pointers and 10 of 21 free throws. Kong’s 3-pointer in the closing seconds increased GU’s streak of games with a 3-pointer to 537, dating to Jan. 27, 1993.
The starting backcourt of Bouldin, Steven Gray and Demetri Goodson combined for just 12 points on 5-of-18 shooting.
“They weren’t able to run some of the things they normally do,” Krzyzewski said. “Bouldin and Gray get a lot of 3s. Half of their shots are 3s so they didn’t get many open looks.”
Duke scored the first nine points of the second half, but the Zags answered with six straight points to pull within 16.
Gonzaga went 9 minutes between field goals as Duke stretched its lead to 61-28.
“We have to put this one out of our minds,” Few said. “This was an aberration. This team has not played or competed like this. They’ve been great at competing when there were challenges, stepping up and rising to it.”
GU will have a few days off before returning to practice Christmas Day. GU entertains Eastern Washington on Dec. 28.
Duke 76, Gonzaga 41
Percentages: FG .278, FT .476. 3-Point Goals: 1-10, .100 (Kong 1-1, Gray 0-4, Bouldin 0-3, Harris 0-1, Vilarino 0-1). Team Rebounds: 6. Blocked Shots: 2 (Sacre, Foster ). Turnovers: 18 (Bouldin 5, Harris 5, Sacre 3, Gray 2, Goodson 2, Gibbs). Steals: 9 (Gray 4, Harris, Bouldin, Sacre, Olynyk, Kong). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .450, FT .800. 3-Point Goals: 6-18, .333 (Smith 3-3, Scheyer 2-4, Kelly 1-2, Singler 0-5, Dawkins 0-4). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 7 (Kelly 4, Thomas, Ma. Plumlee, Zoubek). Turnovers: 13 (Singler 4, Scheyer 2, Ma. Plumlee 2, Smith, Mi. Plumlee, Thomas, Dawkins, Zoubek). Steals: 7 (Scheyer 2, Thomas 2, Singler, Smith, Zoubek). Technicals: None.
Halftime–Duke 31, Gonzaga 17.