Barrett’s 23-point effort not enough as Gonzaga hand Duke 1st loss of season

The star-studded Duke Blue Devils fell to third-ranked Gonzaga on Wednesday night, 89-87, in the Maui Invitational championship game.

It was Duke’s first loss of the season and, at least temporarily, quieted the hype surrounding the team that many has called one of the best ever.

The Blue Devils had previously trailed for a total of 35 seconds in their first five games this season heading into Wednesday’s showdown. But the Rui Hachimura-led Bulldogs raced to an early lead and never looked back.

“We’re the best team in the country. I’m the best player in the country,” remarked Rui Hachimura just moments after being named the Maui Invitational MVP. It was a confident statement that his head coach was more than happy to hear.

Hachimura led Gonzaga with 20 points to go along with seven rebounds. He also added five assists and three blocks. Clarke ended with 17 points and six rejections.

They entered halftime 47-39 and held a comfortable lead before a furious run by Duke narrowed the score to 83-81 with 3:45 remaining.

The teams jostled for position from there, but the Blue Devils never regained the lead. Duke had possession in the final seconds with a chance to tie the game or take the lead. But the layup attempt from Barrett was blocked by Brandon Clarke, and time expired.

Williamson finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. Barrett added 23 points on 25 shots. Reddish had just 10 on 3-for-9 shooting. As a whole, the Blue Devils shot just 43.1 percent from the field — the Duke’s lowest mark of the season.

“We finally started to fight in the last 14 minutes. Whereas before we had just come to play and we aren’t as emotionally ready as Gonzaga,” said Duke’s Javin DeLaurier, who had six points and six rebounds.

Gonzaga were in the lead by as many as 16 points in the second half before Duke’s late rally.

“Experience plays a big role in this,” said Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell Jr. Norvell had 18 points. “We came down the stretch and got some stops. We knew we were winning it on the defensive end.”

The Blue Devils, went into the last minute down by 89-87. They had multiple chances in the final minute to take the lead. But a handful of missed shots and lay ups helped the Bulldogs hang on despite going 0-4 on trips to the free-throw line.

The Zags all but took Duke big man Marques Bolden out of the game. Bolden had seven blocked shots in the semi finals. On this occasion, Gozaga’s ball movement took the game away from Bolden. Also creating numerous open looks for themselves.

“They were just dictating the flow,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I mean we were not playing good defense, but they were playing great offense.”

When Clarke went to the bench with his fourth foul midway through the second half, Gonzaga stopped playing. Allowing Duke to put together a run, a sixth Maui title within reach. The Zags reacted and swatted Duke’s bid away.

Next up for Duke is a match up against Indiana Hoosiers on Wednesday evening.

Peace,

Burke

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