Time was fast running out on Gonzaga, but Bol Kong rose up on the right side of the three-point arc and stroked home a three-pointer with 10.7 seconds to play against Duke Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
That was the only one of 10 three-point attempts by the Zags that went down, and it spared them the ignominy of failing to reach the 40-point mark.
It's not often that you lead the 15th-ranked team in the country by 38 points, but that's how far ahead seventh-ranked Duke was when Kong hit his game-ending three to reduce the Blue Devils' winning margin to 76-41 in the Aeropostale Classic.
The nationally televised match between mid-major standard-bearer Gonzaga and ACC power Duke was a classic only in terms of how well the Blue Devils played defense.
They so completely overwhelmed the Bulldogs, whose point total was their lowest in 25 years, that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski felt compelled to keep reminding everyone that Gonzaga really is a good team.
"We are very, very pleased with our performance," Krzyzewski said of Duke's third win at the Garden this season. "Our defense was just better than their offense . . . They're a good team, but they weren't able to run things they normally do . . . To us, [Matt] Bouldin is a great player. He's as good a player as there is on the West Coast."
Coming into this game, the Bulldogs (8-3) had lost only to then-second-ranked Michigan State by four points and to the ACC's Wake Forest by two. But Duke (9-1) completely dismantled them.
Bouldin scored only two points on 1-for-7 shooting, and the most amazing stat was that he managed only seven shots against Kyle Singler's tough coverage.
Gonzaga starters Robert Sacre and Elias Harris shot 2- for-11 and 2-for-8, respectively. The Zags shot only 27.8 percent and were led by Sacre's nine points.
The funny thing was that Duke shot just as poorly in the early going. It was like a continuation of the NIT Season Tip-Off final in which the Blue Devils shot 28.3 percent - and, uh, still won the title over Connecticut thanks to their defense.
In this case, Gonzaga led 10-8 when Duke took control with an 18-2 run that included 11 points from guard Jon Scheyer, who finished with 20 points, eight assists and five rebounds. During that stretch, Gonzaga shot 1-for-9 and committed six turnovers to fall behind 26-12.
Any thoughts of a comeback were laid to rest when Duke hit three straight three-pointers to start the second half, including two by Nolan Smith, who led all scorers with 24 points.
"That was Nolan's best game at Duke," Krzyzewski said.
As the Blue Devils' lead grew, it became evident they might be the best defensive team in the country with their shot-blocking, length and experience on the perimeter.
"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. An old-fashioned take-you-out-to-the-woodshed-and-beat-you-down . . . Duke's defense was as good as we've played against this year, by far."