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Bagley and Allen helped push Duke to win the PK80 Invitational's Motion Bracket.

The Chronicle's top 10 sports stories of 2017: Duke rallies to win the PK80 Motion Bracket title

With the end of 2017 quickly approaching, The Chronicle's sports department takes a look back at the biggest sports stories of the year. Each day, The Blue Zone will review a major game, event or storyline that helped shape the course of the year in Blue Devil athletics.

Coming in at No. 6 on our list: Duke men’s basketball overcomes back-to-back double-digit second-half deficits against Florida and Texas to earn the PK80 Invitational Motion Bracket title in Portland.

For a team entering the season with eight freshmen, including four freshman starters, the PK80 Invitational's Motion Bracket, filled with powerhouses like Florida, Texas, Butler and Gonzaga, was bound to test an inexperienced Blue Devil squad. 

But after climbing back from large second-half deficits in back-to-back games and winning the Motion Bracket, it became clear that this Duke team could not be taken lightly going forward.

From the onset of the tournament, the Blue Devils’ youth was pushed to the brink. Portland State came out hot in the opener, seemingly draining everything from downtown. Duke found itself walking into the locker room trailing by four after struggling from the perimeter. 

Then entered the first rendition of the so-called “second-half” Blue Devils, who dominated the interior in the final 20 minutes—riding double-double performances from freshmen big men Wendell Carter Jr. and Marvin Bagley III, who took advantage of an undersized Portland State team to lead Duke to a 99-81 victory. 

“This game definitely prepared us a lot, let us know not to ever doubt our opponent no matter who it could be,” Carter said after the victory. “Just go and recover and be ready for another battle tomorrow.”

The following day, the Blue Devils were tested once again right out of the gates. After a poor start offensively from Duke, Texas jumped out to a 12-4 lead in the first four minutes. Senior Grayson Allen picked up three quick fouls, forcing a young team to climb back in the game without their best shooter and lone senior. 

With Allen out and the Blue Devils trailing by 16 with 10:40 left in the game, Bagley began to show why he was the nation's No.1 recruit. The Phoenix native took over, pouring in a career-high 34 points while once again grabbing 15 rebounds in order to lead Duke to an 85-78 overtime victory and send the Blue Devils to the championship game against then-No.7 Florida. 

The Gators had drained seven first-half threes after converting on 32-of-58 attempts from downtown in the tournament entering the contest. Once again, Duke’s youth showed as the Blue Devils saw a four-point Gator half-time lead balloon to 17 with 10:17 left in the contest. 

But Duke never gave up, stepping up defensively to hold Florida to 1-for-7 from deep in the second half. A rare three-pointer from Trevon Duval and a few clutch makes from Allen brought the Blue Devils back in the game and kept the championship trophy in sight. 

Duke finished the contest on a 30-10 run and took home the PK80 crown with an 87-84 victory over Florida behind another 30-point, 15-rebound performance from Bagley. The freshman phenom also shot 9-for-10 from the charity stripe, despite entering the contest with a sub-.600 free throw percentage.

“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.”

READ MORE on Duke's PK80 championship run

Duke's man-to-man defense silences nation's highest-scoring team during comeback

Just do it: Duke storms back for PK80 title game win vs. Florida

Marvin Bagley III's historic performance saves Duke men's basketball

IN HIS BAG: Duke gets 34 points from Marvin Bagley III to rally past Texas

Duke's improved physicality sets the tone in strong second half vs. Portland State

Duke basketball rallies in second half to beat Portland State in PK80 opener

A look at the rest of our top 10 countdown to date:

No. 10: Men's soccer makes first NCAA tournament appearance since 2011

No. 9: Duke softball play its first-ever game

No. 8: Both men's and women’s golf take ACC titles

No. 7: Duke football goes bowling for the fifth time in six years

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