Maui Invitational has drawn a lot of intention so far. Mainly because of Duke Blue Devils, and their three freshmen who are creating noise everywhere they appear.
The same thing is at Hawai, where Krzyzewski’s boys want to reach the sixth title for this prestigious programme. Yesterday, the No.1 Blue Devils defeated No.8 Auburn 78-72, in a game which for the first time this season didn’t saw a blowout when Duke plays.
“That was a heck of a win for us. To play this level of game at this time of the year is amazing for us.” Coach K said.
Krzyzewski was very happy to see his players react well under pressure, and that was the first time this team had to perform under those circumstances.
Still, the game began in a usual mode for the Blue Devils who had 17 points advantage in the first half. But things started to change in the second half, and Auburn starter to cut the deficit. With 8:19 until the end, Jared Harper hit a three-pointer to bring his team only five points behind the rivals.
Duke instantly replied. To be more precise, Cam Reddish did. The 19-year old from Norristown, Pennsylvania responded with the same measure and Auburn’s momentum was gone.
— Duke Basketball (@DukeMBB) November 21, 2018
For Coach K, this was the decisive moment of the game.
“And I thought [that was] the biggest shot of the game,” Krzyzewski said. “They hit their 3 to [cut it to] five, then he came down, and it wasn’t called or anything, he just … boom. He got us back to eight.”
Reddish finished this contest with 18 points, same as RJ Barrett. Zion Williamson wasn’t at his usual level, and he only had 13 points and 9 boards. Marques Bolden replaced him with an excellent defensive performance, having blocked 7 shots, protecting the rim impeccably.
Jared Harper posted 22 points for the Tigers, and Austine Wiley added 17 from the bench.
In other game, No.3 Gonzaga beat Arizona 91-74. In the last moments of the match, they started chanting “We want Duke, we want Duke”.
That was probably the reaction of relief, after all the ups and downs in this game, which wasn’t easy for Gonzaga as most of you might think after seeing the result. Bulldogs were down 8 at the halftime. Still, Mark Few’s boys pulled themselves together and rolled over Arizona in the second half, outscoring the opponent 54-29.
“We didn’t see anyone’s head going down, anyone bicker,” Gonzaga point guard Josh Perkins said. “There was positivity and we knew things would go our way in the second half and it did.”
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) November 21, 2018
Rui Hachimura led the way for the Bulldogs with 24 points, shooting 10-for-16 from the field. Sophomore guard Zach Norvell Jr. was right behind him with a double-double 20 points, 10 boards, and 6 assists. Brandon Clark and Perkins contributed with 18 points.
On the other side, Wildcats’ coach Sean Miller admitted that his team couldn’t do anything in the second part of this event.
“For 20 minutes, I thought we played with a lot of effort, played a great first half. Obviously, we were overwhelmed in the second half.”
Justin Coleman was masterful dropping 28 points, hitting 6 threes in nine attempts. Brandon Randolph added 19.
The interesting thing is that Arizona players had only 3 assists during the entire contest. That might be the ultimate reason why they failed to keep the lead in the second half.
In other games, Iowa State defeated Illinois 84-68 and reached the fifth-game place. Their opponent is going to be San Diego State, who won against Xavier 79-74.
Up next we have Duke against Gonzaga in the finals of Maui Invitational. The Blue Devils are aiming their 6th trophy here, while the Bulldogs want to reach the second title, after winning one back in 2009.
Nikola Velickovic is a sports journalist who loves to write and read on all sports. Nikola contributes both news updates and functions as a sports breaking news writer at WagerBop.