No. 6 Duke comes up just short against No. 4 Arizona at MSG
The ball, for the most part, landed in the hands of the players Duke wanted shooting on Friday night.
It’s where the ball mostly landed after those players launched shots toward the hoop that did in the No. 6 Blue Devils.
No. 4 Arizona held Duke to its lowest scoring night of the year as the Blue Devils matched their worst shooting game so far in a 72-66 Wildcats win in the NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament championship game at Madison Square Garden.
Duke (6-2) hit just 43.1 percent of its shots, including 35.1 percent in the second half as Arizona (7-0) erased the Blue Devils’ six-point lead.
“We definitely had some shots that we took that went out that could have pushed the lead,” Duke point guard Quinn Cook said.
For the first time in his college career, Duke freshman Jabari Parker failed to score at least 20 points. He tallied 19 points, but did so while making 7 of 21 shots. He missed all five of his 3-pointers.
Rodney Hood. Duke’s other top scoring threat, made 8 of 14 shots to score a game-high 21 for the Blue Devils.
Duke’s struggles on offense came against a bigger Arizona team that started a front line of 6-8 Brandon Ashley, 6-8 Aaron Gordon and 7-0 Kaleb Tarczewski.
“I think we matched their physicality and their intensity,” Duke guard Tyler Thornton said. “It was just a spurt in there. They hit big shots and we didn’t hit shots. They were able to open up the game.”
But Duke’s lack of a powerful inside presence, like 6-11 center Mason Plumlee provided last season on the way to being a Brooklyn Nets’ first-round draft pick, impacts the Blue Devils’ ability to deal with a team like Arizona.
The Wildcats blocked eight shots and earned a 36-28 rebounding edge.
“We have talked all year about how we don’t have a center,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “And we have good players. We have to figure out how to be good with the players we have. I thought the kids played well. I thought they fought their hearts out.”
Duke led 36-33 at halftime and started the second half with solid defense. The Wildcats managed just four Tarczewski free throws over the first six minutes of the second half.
But the Blue Devils were only able to extend their lead to 43-37 over that stretch.
Hood sank a jump shot on Duke’s first possession to give Duke a 38-33 lead. But Duke made just two of its next seven shots while turning the ball over four times over the next six minutes. Parker missed two jumpers during that time while Thornton, Hood and Rasheed Sulaimon all missed contested layups.
“A couple of times we attacked the basket kind of weak and they were able to come over and get blocks,” Thornton said. “We were expecting a call and they didn’t call it. The refs let the game go a little bit and let us play on both ends of the floor. A couple of times we attacked and they are bigger than us.”
Arizona turned the game around with a 20-5 run that transformed Duke’s 43-37 lead into a 57-48 Wildcats advantage.
On a night when Arizona hit only five 3-pointers, the two biggest ones boosted that game-changing run.
With Duke up 43-39, Gordon sank his only 3-pointer when left alone on the wing at 12:14. Parker drew a foul inside and sank two free throws for a 45-42 lead.
Duke’s defense stood tough for Arizona’s entire possession, forcing Johnson into a fallaway 3-pointer with the 35-second shot clock nearing zero. But the 6-3 junior sank it anyway to tie the game at 45 with 11:05 to play.
“I thought the biggest shots of the game were Gordon’s 3 when we were up by four and then Johnson hit one right at the end of the (shot) clock right after that,” Krzyzewski said. “They had two threes that wiped out our small lead that we had and seemed to give them even a little bit more life.”
Duke made just one field goal — when Hood scored inside, drew a foul and hit the free throw — over the next five minutes. Meanwhile, Arizona took off. Johnson had five points while Duke was cold, including a 3-pointer with 6:21 left that gave Arizona a 57-48 lead.
Duke never drew closer than five points the rest of the game.
Johnson led Arizona with 15 points and was named the tournament’s most valuable player. T.J. McConnell, a 6-1 junior guard who transferred from Duquense last year, scored 10 points and dished out eight assists.
Their experience, along with Arizona’s size, proved too much for the Blue Devils, who are winless in two games against top-10 teams this season.
“They are a veteran team, except for Gordon,” Krzyzewski said. “That’s why they are way ahead (with their play). Besides being talented and extremely well coached. (McConnell) makes good decisions and he has good people to make decisions with.”
|No. 4 ARIZONA 72, No. 6 DUKE 66|
Percentages: FG .431, FT .667.
3-Point Goals: 4-14, .286 (Dawkins 1-1, Cook 1-2, Sulaimon 1-2, Hood 1-3, Thornton 0-1, Parker 0-5).
Team Rebounds: 5.
Blocked Shots: 2 (Parker 2).
Turnovers: 11 (Parker 5, Cook 2, Hood 2, Jefferson, Thornton).
Steals: 5 (Thornton, Hood, Parker, Jefferson, Sulaimon).
Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .489, FT .808.
3-Point Goals: 5-14, .357 (N. Johnson 2-6, Ashley 1-1, Gordon 1-1, York 1-4, McConnell 0-2).
Team Rebounds: 3.
Blocked Shots: 8 (Gordon 2, N. Johnson 2, Hollis-Jefferson 2, Ashley, Tarczewski).
Turnovers: 16 (Tarczewski 4, N. Johnson 4, Ashley 3, McConnell 2, Hollis-Jefferson, Mayes, Gordon).
Steals: 6 (N. Johnson 2, Ashley 2, Mayes, McConnell).
Technical Fouls: None.
Officials_Ed Corbett, Michael Stephens, Ron Groover.