Duke Now

Duke upset by St. John’s at Madison Square Garden

The last time Duke played St. John’s at Madison Square Garden, three years ago, was a happy moment. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski had won his 1,000th career game after a 77-68 win

But the happiness felt on that day in January 2015 wasn’t there on Saturday when No. 4 Duke lost 81-77 to St. John’s in the Blue Devils’ final non-conference game of the regular season.

St. John’s, which lost 11 straight heading into the game with Duke, came out firing in the second half. Marvin Bagley III picked up his fourth foul with 12:21 left in the game and had to sit out for an extended period of time. And the Red Storm turned what was a 7-point deficit into an 11-point lead with less than seven minutes left in the game.

Duke (19-4) worked its way back and briefly took the lead with less than two minutes left in the game, but St. John’s reclaimed it and won.

It was Duke’s fourth loss of the season and only non-conference loss. Duke freshman Gary Trent Jr.’s game-high 22 points was not enough.

Duke St Johns Basketball (2)
St. John's Tariq Owens, bottom, passes the ball as Duke's Trevon Duval (1) defends during the first half. Andres Kudacki AP

Bagley had 19 points and 7 rebounds.

“I thought they made us look bad, but then we made ourselves look bad,” Krzyzewski said. “We did not play basketball the first 32 minutes worthy of our program.”

The team had blank faces and didn’t talk.

“It was like five individuals out there,” Krzyzewski said. “It was disgusting, really. And no matter what we said, nothing worked with our team, until the last eight minutes and then we had a chance to win.”

Duke has been down late in games before. They’ve come from behind double digits in three games this season – Texas on Nov. 24, Florida on Nov. 26 and Miami on Jan. 15 – and have won. But the magic they had down the stretch in those games, tight defense and flawless offense, ran out.

For a second it looked like Duke would come back. During Duke’s run, prior to taking the lead, St. John’s couldn’t make a basket.

When Duke finally did take the lead, St. John’s buckled down and started to hit some shots.

The two teams traded baskets in the game’s final two minutes, before the Red Storm came out on top. Shamorie Ponds was big for the Red Storm. He finished with 33 points.

“We wanted to stop Ponds. We didn’t,” senior guard Grayson Allen, who finished with 7 points, said. “We let him get hot, and when you let a guy like that get hot, that’s why he makes a 30-footer at the end to put us down.”

A previous verision of this story incorrectly stated the last time Duke played at Madison Square Garden was three years ago. The last time Duke played St. John’s at Madison Square Garden was three years ago.

Jonathan M. Alexander: 919-829-4822, @jonmalexander