Published December 29, 2012
DURHAM, N.C. – Santa Clara is no stranger to upsetting college basketball's heavyweights, and for much of Saturday, Kevin Foster had the Broncos poised to pull their latest shocker against No. 1 Duke.
Then came the ill-timed cold spell that led to a double-digit defeat.
Foster scored 29 points and Santa Clara gave Duke fits for about 24 minutes of a 90-77 loss to the Blue Devils.
The Broncos were held to one field goal during a pivotal 8½-minute stretch while Duke went on its decisive run.
"You almost have to play a perfect game from a turnover standpoint and from a shot-selection standpoint," Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating said. "For a couple of possessions there, we didn't have any go down, and a couple of guys had some opportunities when they came to them. You have to take advantage of them, and we didn't."
Foster scored 18 of his 29 points in the first half for upset-minded Santa Clara (11-3), which is perhaps best known for its Steve Nash-led team that knocked off Arizona as a No. 15 seed in the 1993 NCAA tournament.
His soaring baseline dunk put the Broncos up 45-41 with 16:30 left before they went cold while Duke responded with a 26-5 run keyed by Seth Curry, who had 12 of his season-high 31 points during the spurt.
"Our team did a great job of executing in the halfcourt," Curry said. "Our big guys set great screens, and the few times we got in transition, Quinn (Cook) kept his head up and found me for some open shots. I was able to score from behind the line and attacking the rim, so I was able to mix it up a little bit."
Fellow senior Mason Plumlee added 22 points and 13 rebounds for the Blue Devils (12-0).
"We're going to keep playing teams where our game is their season," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "That's something that most people never, ever compete against, where you're always competing against somebody's best. . At Duke, a lot of teams have free money against us because the story is not us winning — the story is us losing, and that's the way it's been for 25 years."
Curry, who was 12 of 18 from the field with four 3s, finished with his best scoring day as Blue Devil but came up short of the 35 he scored against VMI while a freshman at Liberty in 2008-09.
Ryan Kelly — the team's third scholarship senior — had 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Cook finished with 15 points for Duke.
Playing for the first time in nine days — and just the fifth time in December — Duke wasn't anywhere near its best for much of this one.
The Blue Devils, whose previous two wins as the No. 1 team this season came by margins of 41 and 22 points, missed 10 of their first 18 free throws, had six shots blocked and were regularly outworked by the Broncos.
But they were good enough when it counted, shooting 51 percent in the second half and finishing with a 40-28 rebounding advantage to reach 12-0 for the 10th time under Krzyzewski and win their 101st straight nonconference game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
"You keep getting in fights like this, and you get better," Krzyzewski said. "You're going to lose a few fights, but then at the end, hopefully you're tough enough to win the big fight. My team has fought."
Evan Roquemore added 17 points while Marc Trasolini and Raymond Cowels III had 10 apiece for Santa Clara, which was playing the No. 1 team for just the second time since 1981 and fell to 0-12 all-time against top-ranked opponents with its first loss in regulation this season.
Yet the Broncos gave Duke a game before going cold at the most inopportune time.
Foster, the nation's top 3-point shooter in 2010-11, had 18 of his team's first 30 points to single-handedly keep them in this one early, scoring 12 points during a 16-4 run that wiped out an 11-point deficit and put Santa Clara up 30-29.
"I hit a couple 3s, so of course, they were going to start denying me," Foster said. "They made it hard to get catches. . At the same time, we still made plays and we fed off of that."