No.1 Duke Advances To Maui Championship After Beating No. 8 Auburn 78-72 - uSports.org

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Duke's Zion Williamson

No.1 Duke Advances To Maui Championship After Beating No. 8 Auburn 78-72

The No. 1-ranked Duke Blue Devils (5-0) took down the No. 8 Auburn Tigers (4-1) 78-72 Tuesday evening to advance to the Maui Invitational championship game.

Duke tops Auburn In Maui Invitational

After draining ten triples in their 90-64 victory over against San Diego State Aztecs (2-1), the Blue Devils were held to less than 30 percent beyond the arc by the Tigers.

Duke’s leading scorer, R.J. Barrett struggled to find his stroke and matched Cam Reddish with 18 points. Barrett made just seven of his 20 shots from the field.

The Blue Devils took advantage of Auburn’s inability to convert from the three-point line in the opening minutes and spurted out to an early double-digit lead that grew to 33-16 with 5:51 left in the first half.

But the Tigers eventually found success using a trio of triples and a couple of dunks to cut the Duke lead down to as few as six, and the Blue Devils entered the locker room with a 41-33 lead.

Center Marques Bolden was clutch when his team needed it most, scoring 11 points, nine rebounds, and a career-high seven blocks. With the Tigers cutting a 17-point lead down to six prior to the break, Bolden put the Blue Devils on his back out of the locker room with pairs of blocks and dunks to help Duke stretch the lead back to 16.

Auburn bounced right back with a 12-4 run of its own, with 6-foot-11 center Austin Wiley leading the charge.

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“I thought their two guards are really as good as any two guards in the country,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said of Auburn’s comeback. “They are big-time elite guards and we did, overall, a good job against them. But they are elite… They can beat anybody.”

The Tigers’ leading scorer Jared Harper cut the lead down to just five with 8:19 remaining, but Reddish responded with a three of his own from way downtown on the next possession to maintain the Duke lead.

“They were down five and he came down, it wasn’t called or anything, he just, boom, he got us back to eight,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s a big-time play. I thought that was the play of the game, really.”

Auburn refused to let Zion Williamson dominate the interior in the opening 20 minutes, but the agile freshman recovered in the second half, electrifying the crowd with an assist on an alley-oop pass to Barrett and finding his offensive rhythm to bring his final total to 13 points.

With the Blue Devils (5-0) holding a ten-point lead and less than five minutes left, Bolden put the cherry on top of his night with a big block on a layup by Samir Doughty before running the length of the floor for an alley-oop off an assist by Tre Jones. On the next play, Bolden added yet another block.

“This is the best, by far, that we have protected our basket in a few years,” Krzyzewski said about Bolden’s performance. “The defense was exquisite. It was at the highest level. Seven blocks and changing some shots, man, that’s a heck of a performance.”

Duke will play in the championship game Wednesday against No. 3 Gonzaga, which knocked off Arizona 91-74 Tuesday night. This game will air on ESPN at 5 p.m. EST from Lahaina Civic Center.

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Written by Dewayne Goforth