DURHAM, N.C. -- Santa Clara didn't leave the Eastern time zone with a victory over top-ranked Duke, but it might have proved to itself and others that it's ready to challenge for the West Coast Conference title.
The Broncos didn't back down from the Blue Devils, drawing praise from their Hall of Fame coach afterward, despite falling 90-77 at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday.
"This was like a February ACC game," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "They're men. They're a man's team."
Santa Clara (11-3) weathered one Duke first-half run, turning an 11-point deficit into a four-point lead with 16:29 remaining. But the Blue Devils (12-0) responded with a 26-5 run that proved too much for the Broncos to overcome.
Duke won its 101st consecutive nonconference home game and dropped SCU to 0-12 all-time against No. 1-ranked teams.
Early on, SCU looked loose, scoring the first five points and hitting five of its first eight shots. Even after Duke got rolling with a 17-2 run, the Broncos didn't flinch, reclaiming the lead behind Kevin Foster, who scored 18 of his of 29 points in the first half.
"You've gotta come out with aggressiveness, you've gotta come out fighting, and you've gotta come out ready to play not scared, and our guys definitely did that," SCU coach Kerry Keating said.
Keating had experienced an upset win at Cameron before -- nearly 20 years ago as an assistant at Wake Forest. That team included a lightly
Santa Clara, on paper, seemed to be overmatched. Despite matching Duke's win total, the Broncos ranked in the mid-200s in strength of schedule and 109th in the Ratings Percentage Index. Duke was No. 1 in the polls, No. 1 in RPI and No. 2 in strength of schedule, with victories over Kentucky, Louisville and Ohio State.
Duke also has Seth Curry, the brother of Warriors guard Stephen Curry, and Mason Plumlee, a senior center who averages 19.3 points and 11.5 rebounds. Curry scored 31 points, including 12 in the 26-5 run. Plumlee had 22 points and 13 rebounds.
Foster hit 5 of 11 shots from behind the 3-point arc, including one to cap a 16-4 run that put the Broncos ahead 30-29 and silenced the home crowd. That silence gave way to a chant of "SCU, SCU" from about 200 fans behind the Broncos' bench.
"I liked the fact that they had to adjust to us a little bit, because Kevin got it going early," Keating said.
Outside of Foster, the Broncos made just 4 of 16 shots from behind the arc, and SCU was outrebounded 40-28.
The Broncos, who got 17 points from Evan Roquemore and 10 apiece from Marc Trasolini and Raymond Cowles, open their WCC schedule Wednesday at home against USF. Saturday's experience -- "There may not be a tougher place to play," Keating said -- could serve as a springboard.
"I think we're going to be ready to compete for the top of our league," Roquemore said.