Top-ranked Duke knocks off No. 8 Auburn 78-72 in Maui semis
(AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
By JOHN MARSHALL
AP Basketball Writer
LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) Duke hit Auburn with a flurry of alley-oops, acrobatic drives and step-back 3-pointers.
The Tigers, unlike the Blue Devils' first four opponents, fought back, going right back at the top-ranked Blue Devils.
It still wasn't enough.
Duke withstood its toughest test of the season so far, outlasting No. 8 Auburn 78-72 Tuesday night to reach the Maui Invitational title game.
"Big time game. Both teams played so hard," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "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."
Duke (5-0) came into the game as the tournament favorite and looked like it would run Auburn out of the gym after racing past San Diego State in the opener.
The Tigers (4-1) clawed back to pull the Blue Devils within reach, yet could never get a firm grip.
Duke answered every Auburn challenge, earning a chance to play No. 3 Gonzaga for the chance at an unprecedented sixth Maui Invitational title.
Marques Bolden, an upperclassmen leader among all the talented freshmen, keyed the defensive, blocking seven shots while scoring seven points and grabbing nine rebounds.
Zion Williamson provided the wow factor with acrobatic moves to the basket, finishing with 13 points and nine rebounds.
"We're very disappointed that we weren't able to take advantage of the opportunity," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. "Our great strength is our balance and I think when we continue to become a little bit more balanced in many ways we'll continue to become a better team."
The Blue Devils came to Maui yet to be tested, leaving fans wondering what they'll do next through the first four ooh-and-ahh-inducing routs.
The Blue Devils express kept rolling at the Lahaina Civic Center.
Duke stymied Auburn defensively early, limiting the Tigers to 4-of-20 shooting while jumping out to a 20-8 lead.
But Tigers would not lay down that easy. Boosted by a large contingent of rowdy supporters, they held Duke without a field goal for five minutes, got out in transition and whittle what seemed like an insurmountable lead to six just before halftime.
Duke tried to run away with it by scoring the second half's first eight points, Auburn clawed its way back, trimming what was once a 17-point deficit to 61-56.
But every time the Tigers tried to get close, the Blue Devils had an answer with an alley-oop dunk or a Bolden block.
NO 3. GONZAGA 91, ARIZONA 74.
The clock ticking down on a rousing win, Gonzaga's fans started a chant of "We want Duke!"
The Zags will get a chance after an overwhelming second half against Arizona.
Disjointed in the first half, Gonzaga was at its free-flowing best in the second, blowing past the Wildcats 91-74 to set up another marquee Maui Invitational game.
"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."
Gonzaga (5-0) seemed to miss do-everything forward Killian Tillie (ankle) early, laboring through a start-and-start, foul-filled first half.
Once the Zags got rolling, they turned Lahaina Civic Center into The Kennel West with a 15-2 run to surge into the lead.
Arizona (4-1) fought back, but it didn't last.
Gonzaga went on another run to stretch the lead, the crowd roaring the Zags into Wednesday's title game against five-time Maui champion and top-ranked Duke.
"We got tested and pushed to the brink, and didn't break," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "That's a great sign for us moving forward."
The Wildcats played through the cacophony of whistles in the first half to lead by eight, but spent most of the second on their heels to drop into the third-place game against No. 8 Auburn.
Justin Coleman had 28 points to lead Arizona, which had three assists on 21 field goals.
"For 20 minutes, I thought we played with a lot of effort, played a great first half," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "Obviously, we were overwhelmed in the second half."
IOWA STATE 84, ILLINOIS 68
Talen Horton-Tucker had 26 points and 14 rebounds, Michael Jacobson added 23 points and Iowa State ran away from Illinois in the second half for an 84-68 victory to reach the fifth-place game.
Down to eight scholarship players due to injuries and suspensions, Iowa State (4-1) bounced back from an opening loss to No. 3 Gonzaga with a strong game at both ends.
Trent Frazier had 15 points to lead Illinois (1-3), which will face Xavier in the seventh-place game.
SAN DIEGO STATE 79, XAVIER 74
San Diego State (3-1) was blown out by top-ranked Duke in its Maui opener and fell behind by 19 early against Xavier (2-3). The Aztecs put together two big runs to go up nine, but Xavier rallied within 64-63 with three minutes left. The Aztecs pushed the lead back to six and hit 10 of 12 free throws in the final 47 seconds to complete their third-largest comeback since 1996-97.
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Updated November 21, 2018