Greg Paulus played arguably the best game of his Duke career, scoring 20 points and serving notice that he has overcome his early season struggles as the Blue Devils beat Gonzaga 61-54 at Madison Square Garden Thursday night.
The sophomore point guard played consistently, helping Duke's offense stay afloat in an otherwise dreadful first half offensive performance.
The Blue Devils trailed 21-20 at halftime after shooting just 22.6 percent from the floor in the first half, with Paulus accounting for eight of the team's points.
But in the second half, Duke came alive, with co-captains Paulus and Josh McRoberts leading the charge.
McRoberts had 11 points and 11 rebounds, but it was his two key assists to Paulus down the stretch that helped decide the outcome for Duke.
He sent a pass to Paulus in the corner for a three pointer with less than seven minutes remaining to put the Devils up 48-40, and then gave a one handed touch pass on a give-and-go to Paulus down the lane for a layup to extend the Duke lead to six with under a minute to go.
McRoberts finished the game with five assists overall to lead the team.
Even though both Duke and Gonzaga heated up offensively in the second half, Duke's defensive effort might have been its best of the season.
Gonzaga guard Derek Raivio entered the matchup averaging more than 20 points per game, but ended the game with just four points on only four shot attempts after being shut down, mostly by Duke guard Jon Scheyer.
Sophomore David McClure also stood out defensively. The forward made invaluable contributions with a pair of blocks in transition defense and another block in the closing seconds to help seal the win for the Blue Devils. McClure finished with four blocked shots on the night to go with six rebounds and a steal.
Duke trailed by as many as nine in the first half, at one point finding itself on the wrong end of a 19-10 count.
But the Blue Devils entered the locker room with some momentum when they closed the half on a 10-2 run to trim the margin to a single point.
With Raivio unable to get on track, Gonzaga turned to Jeremy Pargo for offense, and Pargo answered the call, but his strong 21 point effort wasn't enough to get the Bulldogs over the hump.
Though Scheyer deserves praise for his defense, he also was a key factor on offense, scoring 14 points to help offset a sub-par outing for DeMarcus Nelson.
Nelson, who has been on an offensive tear, scored just nine points on 3-of-10 shooting, and fouled out with about five minutes remaining in the game.
Nelson did pitch in nine rebounds and continued his solid three point shooting by making a pair from long range.
Duke enters the Christmas break with a 11-1 record and a seven game winning streak since losing to Marquette in the CBE Classic championship game in Kansas City.
The team will return to the floor on New Year's Eve at Cameron Indoor Stadium against San Jose State.