Questions about Duke? Marvin Bagley III is the answer
No. 1 Duke has shown flaws on the young season, but Marvin Bagley III isn't one of them, as he willed the Blue Devils to a comeback OT win over Texas.
PORTLAND, Ore. -- When Marvin Bagley III gets mad, he squeezes the ball with his catcher's mitt of a right hand, grits his teeth and stares into space.
But when that frustration boils over and the 6-foot-11 power forward decides to barrel through helpless defenders, he can snatch a victory from certain defeat.
That's what happened on Friday, when an impressive Texas squad had amassed a 16-point lead over Duke with nearly 11 minutes remaining in their PK80 tournament matchup.
And that's what will happen all season if Mike Krzyzewski continues to offer Bagley the freedom to stitch his brilliance into every pivotal moment of Duke's promising 2017-18 campaign.
"[My anger] was just my way of just trying to lock in, focus on the game and take every possession at one time and just try to get a stop, get out and run and get easy buckets in transition and slowly work our way back into the game," said Bagley, who finished the 85-78 overtime win over Texas with 34 points (12-for-19), 15 rebounds, two assists and a steal. "And that happened."
Despite the win, this is clear: something is wrong with Duke.
A few things, actually.
Gary Trent Jr., a five-star prospect, is now 24-for-67 from the field after Friday's victory. Trevon Duval (11 turnovers in his last two games) is still trying to prove he's the point guard Duke will need to compete for the ACC title and win its second national championship in four seasons.
Grayson Allen, who fouled out on Friday and missed overtime, is attempting to blend with two freshmen -- Duval and Trent -- in a starting backcourt that's 22-for-63 through two PK80 games.
The Blue Devils, who have finished a season shooting below 37 percent from the 3-point line only once since 2005, recorded a 3-for-18 effort against the Longhorns. They've connected on just 32.6 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc thus far in 2017-18.
Locked into a zone because Krzyzewski doubts his young team's grasp of a man-to-man scheme, Duke surrendered a 50 percent clip from the 3-point line in the first half against Portland State on Thursday before it fell into a 16-point hole in the second half Friday against a Texas team that made only four 3-pointers all night.
"We've been winning," Krzyzewski said, "but not playing well."
The questions about Duke, the favorite to win the national title, lingered prior to the Texas thriller. But Bagley was the answer.
As this Duke team adapts, adjusts, tweaks, evolves and matures, it can trust the projected No. 1 pick in next summer's NBA draft as the steady force capable of outplaying any individual on the floor and rising in those save-the-day moments.
But he's not perfect.
Late in regulation against Texas, he missed a potential game-winner from deep -- way too deep -- beyond the arc.
"I'm still a freshman," Bagley said. "I've got a lot to learn. It probably wasn't a good shot, the shot we needed. Probably could've got [in the paint]."
Texas had played like a Big 12 title contender throughout the game. Kerwin Roach II's dunks shocked the Twitterverse, part of an 18-point effort. Mohamed Bamba (nine points, 10 rebounds, two blocks) swatted one of Bagley's shots and challenged everything in the paint before fouling out late in the game. Andrew Jones had 16 points, six assists and just one turnover.
And the Longhorns had a win over a No. 1 team dangling in reach.
The late dunks. The hook over Dylan Osetkowski in the final minutes. The 3-for-3 effort in overtime.
Texas didn't have Bamba in the extra period and Jericho Sims fouled out in the first minute of overtime. But the Longhorns had that duo most of the game and still couldn't slow Bagley.
With the game at stake, Krzyzewski had enough confidence in Bagley to abandon traditional playcalls and force the ball into his hands. Bagley and Wendell Carter Jr. (14 points, 11 rebounds) ensured the win for Duke.
"There were some magical plays there, just connecting of talent and instinct," Krzyzewski said. "Really, it was beautiful."
That late push on Friday, however, did not blur the overt flaws Duke must minimize or eliminate to match the preseason hype.
But the Blue Devils can chip away at those challenges at a modest pace.
No need to rush toward greatness.
They have Bagley, who is already there.
"I wanted him," Krzyzewski said of his late-game strategy with his elite freshman, "to just have the ball."