PORTLAND, Ore.—With 10 minutes left, Duke looked like it was out of punches.
It had rallied from an early 15-point deficit to take the lead, only to see Florida snatch it right back.
It then trimmed another double-digit hole to four, only to see the margin balloon to 17.
But the top-ranked Blue Devils came back from the dead again with the most improbable of their three comebacks this weekend, starting gradually before finishing with a sudden surge to stun No. 7 Florida 87-84 in the championship of the PK80 Invitational’s Motion Bracket at the Moda Center. Duke closed the game on an 15-2 run, taking the lead for the first time in the second half with two free throws from Gary Trent Jr. with 1:12 left.
“That was nothing but heart,” freshman big man Marvin Bagley III said. “We have so much fight. We’re not going to give up. We’re going to keep pushing no matter the situation.”
Florida’s Jalen Hudson missed the front end of a one-and-one on the ensuing possession, and Trent then stole the ball from him with 12 seconds left and the Gators still trailing by just one. After Trent made two more free throws, Egor Koulechov's desperation 3-pointer was well off the mark at the buzzer.
Trent was the star of the final minute, but all five Duke starters made key contributions to the comeback, none more so than Bagley. No Blue Devil since Christian Laettner had scored at least 30 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in a game. Bagley has now done it twice in a row, hitting those numbers on the nose Sunday and scoring his last four points on back-to-back possessions to pull Duke (8-0) within one.
“It seems like every game he goes out there and it’s a simple but beautiful 30-and-15,” senior captain Grayson Allen said. “It’s not something you see very often. 30-and-15 should be something very loud and in your face, but he just goes out there and makes it look easy.”
Allen made a key triple to chop a six-point deficit in half, and Wendell Carter Jr.—who went scoreless and battled foul trouble for the first 30 minutes of the night—scored six straight Blue Devil points early in the final rally.
And the comeback all started with point guard Trevon Duval, a freshman who is not known for his shooting ability but had the confidence to step into a corner 3-pointer with 9:47 left off a pass from Allen and knock it down anyway.
“Trevon, who had not had a good tournament or first half, all of a sudden—when a player can change during the game, he’s special,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He’s got a chance to be very, very good. Trevon did that.”
Florida (5-1) raced out to a 21-6 lead in the first six minutes of the game, knocking down four of its first six 3-point attempts. It was hard to imagine the Gators would only make four more triples the rest of the night, and Duke would wind up besting one of the most lights-out shooting teams in the nation.
The Blue Devils quickly got back into the game with a flurry of triples on the other end. Trent—who shot 0-of-6 from deep in Friday’s overtime win against Texas—made three 3-pointers in a span of less than 90 seconds, and Allen added back-to-back 3-pointers to spark a 20-4 run that put Duke in front 44-37.
The Blue Devils finished the night 10-of-23 from 3-point range and held Florida to a modest 8-of-20 mark.
“We had to stay at home on the shooters and we had to just guard. We couldn’t go zone like we tried to for a little bit in the first half because they move so well and their shooters are always loaded up,” Allen said. “We had to just man up and D up, really stay at home and let our bigs contest around the rim.”
The Gators had the last counterpunch of the half, scoring 16 points in the last 3:10 to head into the locker room up 53-49.
Florida's four starting guards—Hudson, Chris Chiozza, KeVaughn Allen and Koulechov—each scored at least 13 points and combined to make all eight of the team’s triples, forcing big men like Bagley into unfamiliar situations defending the perimeter.
“He’s guarding 1 through 5 because he can do that. He gives us a lot of flexibility,” Krzyzewski said. “This kid’s special. He’s a great teammate. He’s the most unique kid I’ve coached at Duke. I’ve got to learn about him too because he’s 6-11 and can guard five positions and put up 30 two games in a row as a freshman.”
Thirteen unanswered points a few minutes into the second half widened the Gators’ lead to 17, and Florida was even beating Duke on the boards for second chances—Hudson collected 10 rebounds to along with his 24 points for his first career double-double.
But the Blue Devils played an almost flawless quarter of the game the rest of the way.
Florida, which had scored 219 points and made 32 3-pointers in its first two games in Portland, scored just 10 points and did not make a shot from deep in the last 10 minutes of the game. Duke surged past the Gators with 30 points during that span.
“I don’t know [why we keep having slow starts]. We’ve got to figure that out. But the one thing I do know is that we have a lot of fighters on this team,” Grayson Allen said. “It shows a lot of heart and I think it shows how special this group can be.”
The Blue Devils will face a Power-5 opponent away from home for the third straight game when they travel to Bloomington, Ind., to face Indiana in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge Wednesday night.