That haymaker came in the form of a Daniel Ewing 3-pointer with 1:06 to play, which pushed Duke's lead to 78-73, turning the game into a free-throw contest and essentially ending the last Spartan threat.
The difference for the Blue Devils came from the senior Ewing and junior guard J.J. Redick, who each scored 29 points, many of those coming from behind the 3-point arc.
Redick had 21 points in the first half, and Ewing scored 15 after the break to help Duke (4-0) remain undefeated (6-0) in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and beat the Spartans (3-1) for the second-straight season.
Together, Ewing and Redick went 19-of-32 (59.3 percent) overall from the field and 10-of-16 (62.5 percent) from 3-point range. Many of those shots were nailed with MSU defenders in their face.
The Spartans dropped their 10th straight game against ranked teams, but their effort in this contest displayed the markings of a team that is beginning to live up to the promise of seasons past.
MSU took a 10-point lead early, trailed by as many as 10 early in the second half, then fought back relentlessly with its transition offense and the inside play of Paul Davis.
MSU had nine first-half turnovers but just 12 for the game. They also did a good job on the offensive end, dishing out 12 assists. The Spartans shot 44 percent from the floor, to Duke's 51 percent, and Duke, led by Shelden Williams' 12 rebounds, held a 31-27 edge on the boards.
Despite coming up on the short end against Duke once again, MSU Head Coach Tom Izzo had no regrets: "Hey, that's what makes great teams win. They have a great team, and I think we do too. I think we have a damn good team, I really do. And we're going to get better."
The Spartans will travel to Washington, D.C. Saturday to take on a solid George Washington squad at 3:30 p.m. in the first round of the BB&T Classic. The winner will take on the winner of George Mason and the No. 12 Maryland Terrapins in the finals on Sunday.