The Duke and Gonzaga will go down as one of the most memorable games played this year. As Coach K embarks on a farewell tour, his team has not let the emotions take over the season. Duke couldn’t shoot, couldn’t rebound, and couldn’t keep its key players on the floor for key portions of the second half. But man they could defend, forcing the top-ranked Gonzaga Zags into 17 turnovers. Duke pulled out an 84-81 victory in Las Vegas. The game of the year lived up to the hype. Being in the fighting city of the country, it felt like an epic boxing match. Round after round, the Bluedeviels would pull away, but Gonzaga returned body blows.
Mark Few and Coach K, alongside future NBA stars Paolo Bencharo and Chet Holmgren, played in front of 20,389. It was the largest crowd ever for a college basketball event in the state of Nevada. The atmosphere was flat-out electric. It was shockingly a pro-Duke crowd traveled so well. Both of these teams will undoubtedly be playing for the No. 1 seed come March. Both Coaches had great game plans to combat the other and both future NBA superstars delivered at a high level for their team.
For the Bulldogs, star players Holmgren and Drew Timmie started slow. They stepped up and played huge roles in the second half. Gonzaga relied on other role players to keep them in the game early. Duke Sophomore Mark Williams was crucial to Duke’s victory with 17 points, nine rebounds, and five blocks. Banchero led all scorers with 21 points while missing a decent chunk of the second half due to cramps. MVP of the Continental Tire Challenge Wendall Moore Jr scored 20 points.
After the game, Coach Mark Few spoke about competing against Coach K. ” It’s great to compete against him. I have a lot of respect for him as a coach. He’s the best, and he’s the gold standard. In a game like this, you’ll have to execute and have your team ready. You have to be ready to fight.”
Paolo Banchero showed last night that he is one of the top prospects coming into the 2022 NBA Draft. The issue will be the freshman missing a significant time due to feeling unwell. He had early in the second half against Kentucky also. It’s an issue that could impact him at the next level. He must get in better shape.