Duke defense shuts down the Zags 76-41 as Scheyer and Smith shine

Lance King Photo
Lance King Photo

NEW YORK – It wasn’t an official point guard reunion for Duke at Madison Square Garden, but the man who currently runs the offense must have made the old-timers proud.

So did their alma mater’s defense.

Nolan Smith scored 24 points, point guard Jon Scheyer added 20 points and eight assists and No. 7 Duke held No. 15 Gonzaga to its lowest point total in 25 years in a 76-41 victory Saturday in the Aeropostale Classic.

Among those in the crowd of 14,554 on a snowy day were Jason Williams, Chris Duhon, Greg Paulus and current assistant Steve Wojciechowski, all players who ran the point successfully at Duke for coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“I didn’t know who was here until after the game and that’s a good thing because you play a little differently if you do,” Scheyer said. “I’m not one of those guys. They were obviously great guards and it was fun for Nolan and I to have a game like that.”

Fun was not a word heard much in the Gonzaga locker room with the Bulldogs being held to their lowest point total since a 62-40 loss to Iowa on Nov. 28, 1984.

“We got throttled in every aspect of basketball,” 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. They beat us in every aspect. It was an old-fashioned take you out to the woodshed and beat you down.”

This wasn’t a perfect game for either team for most of the first half.

Duke (9-1) missed 12 of its first 15 shots from the field and it was only that the Bulldogs (8-3) were struggling as well, making only two of their first 10 shots, that the game was close for the first 15 minutes.

The Blue Devils were able to straighten things out enough to take a 31-17 halftime lead, but they missed all six of their 3-point attempts.

Smith then hit two 3s and Scheyer added another in a 9-1 run to open the second half and the rout was on.

“It was a matter of the shots being open because we were moving the ball better,” Scheyer said of the start of the second half. “Nolan found me for a great look and he had a couple of great looks.”

Scheyer, who was coming off a career-high 36 points against Gardner-Webb when he was two rebounds and an assist shy of a triple-double, also had eight assists. Scheyer, who entered the game leading the nation with a 6.4:1 assist-turnover ratio, had two turnovers.

“I don’t remember the second turnover,” Scheyer said with a laugh before dismissing again that he deserves to be included with the former Duke point guards. “I like to think I make other plays besides scoring. As long as I’m out there playing I’m OK. It doesn’t matter to me. Call me whatever you want.”

Krzyzewski said Scheyer “doesn’t have a position. He is just a good, smart basketball player.”

Robert Sacre led the Bulldogs with nine points on 2-of-11 shooting. The Bulldogs came into the game averaging 79.5 points and were shooting 49.3 percent from the field and 37.5 from 3-point range.

Their numbers Saturday weren’t even close. Gonzaga shot 27.8 percent (15 of 54) and made one of 10 3-point attempts while committing 18 turnovers.

“Against a top team like that, to put together a defensive effort like that let’s us know even if we have an off game we can score 50 points and win a game,” Smith said.

The win was the sixth straight at Madison Square Garden for the Blue Devils and the third this season. They beat Arizona State and Connecticut in the semifinals and finals of the NIT Season Tip-Off.

Duke has an all-time record of 26-14 at the Garden, 21-6 under Krzyzewski. Gonzaga fell to 1-4 all-time at Madison Square Garden.

“We have to put this one out of out minds fast. This was an aberration,” Few said. “They have been great at stepping up to challenges all season.”