The Duke men’s basketball team could not make a halftime lead against fourth ranked Arizona hold up, as they lost the title game in the NIT Season Tip-Off, 72-66.
The game was delayed about an hour because of the triple overtime thriller that preceded it between Drexel and Alabama (Drexel won). Maybe all of the waiting around got to Duke or maybe they are just really bad at playing defense. Two days after playing much better in a win over Alabama, the Blue Devils were back to playing poor D.
Arizona made it interesting in the closing minutes. Freshman Rondae Jefferson missed two free throws and committed two fouls in the final 2:10. Duke showed a little life, but could not get the score closer than six points. After his missed free throws, Arizona went on to make 9-of-10 to close out the victory.
While the Wildcats shot 48.9% from the field (over 52% in the first half), the Blue Devils went ice cold in the second half. After being down just one (49-48) with 7:47 to go, they were down 57-48 less than two minutes later (6:14 left). They then did not score until there was 2:59 left in the game, but they were down ten points.
The game was seen as another battle between two of the top freshman in the country: Duke’s Jabari Parker against Arizona’s Aaron Gordon. While Parker scored more points (19), Gordon had the better all-around game (and his team won). Gordon scored ten points on 4-of-6 shooting. He hauled in seven rebounds, dished out four assists, and blocked two shots. Parker only made 7-of-21 shots and only hauled in three rebounds. He also committed five turnovers.
Rodney Hood bounced back from an ugly game against Alabama in which he fouled out, to score a game-high 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting. He also hauled in eight rebounds. Quinn Cook had another solid scoring game (13 points), but only had three assists compared to two turnovers.
Once again, Duke’s bench was virtually non-existent, as five players combined to score a total of 10 points. Overall, Duke was out-rebounded 36-29, though the Blue Devils had more offensive boards (11-8). However, the Wildcats blocked eight shots, two each by Gordon and Hollis-Jefferson.
The Blue Devils will look to get back in the win column on Tuesday night when they return to Cameron Indoor Stadium for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. It will not be an easy one, as they face number 22 Michigan.
*This time is becoming eerily similar to last year’s, where only three people score. Last year it was the trio of seniors: Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry, and Ryan Kelly. This year it is Hood, Parker, and Cook. Unfortunately, last season the team played better defense.