There was no diminishing the fact of how important the Duke basketball game was on Wednesday night against Baylor at Madison Square Garden.
The Blue Devils needed a signature victory after falling short against most of its power conference opponents this season and Jon Scheyer's team, which typically starts slow to begin games, had its best start of the season.
No. 21 Duke looked laser focused and attentive to every detail while jumping out to a 26-16 lead over No. 10 Bears in the opening 12:29 of the game, but the substitutes and new lineup combinations were not able to keep the same intensity as Baylor ripped off a 12-0 run in four minutes.
The beginning and closing of the game were spectacular for Duke but its struggles in the middle of the game were able to be overcome in the 78-70 victory.
The Blue Devils would lead by two points, 32-30, at halftime but the Baylor (9-2) lead grew to as many as six points in the second half on multiple occasions, however, Duke freshmen Jared McCain and Caleb Foster were in the middle of a 9-0 run that put the ACC squad back in front.
McCain's 3-pointer with 10:19 left, which made the Baylor lead 54-53, was the catalyst in the Duke (8-3) comeback that electrified The Garden. It was the best performance of the season from the McDonald's All-American, who finished with 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting, and drilled the dagger 3-pointer with 4:03 remaining that put Duke ahead, 68-61.
That final 3-pointer of the night from the rookie came off an assist from Ryan Young, who was forced into action with 7:02 to play in the second half because Kyle Filipowski picked up his fourth foul.
Young had not been good in the minutes he got earlier in the game but excelled in crunch time for the Blue Devils with four points, two rebounds, and the clutch assist before Filipowski returned -- as Duke outscored Baylor 11-3 during that time period.
Each starter recorded at least 10 points and Jeremy Roach, again, put together a quiet night of 18 points, three rebounds, and three assists as he continues to lead Duke in every facet of the game.
Tyrese Proctor (ankle) remained out, his third consecutive game missed, but the team is optimistic he will return in the Blue Devils' next game -- December 30 (2:00 p.m. ET, The CW) against Queens (6-7).