It’s probably a safe bet to say this is the closest Duke and Arizona will be associated with the NIT this season.
For most of the day Friday, the majority of the talk on social media about the Duke/Arizona game centered around the duo of highly-touted freshmen, Jabari Parker and Aaron Gordon. The reality of the situation was while both played significant roles for their squads, it was really a game more about – wait for it – team play.
Rodney Hood’s 21 points and eight rebounds wasn’t enough as No. 4 Arizona handed the No. 6 Blue Devils their second loss of the year 72-66 in Madison Square Garden. There were moments when Jabari resembled the future top three pick next summer, yet credit the Wildcat’s physical defense for making not only his life difficult all evening, but Duke as a whole as they finished well below their season averages in points, field goal and three point percentage. Parker logged 19 points, but did so on 7-21 shooting and with five turnovers.
Meanwhile, for Sean Miller’s ‘Zona team, a balanced attack was their recipe for success. All five starters posted in double figures with Nick Johnson (13 of his 15 points after halftime), T.J. McConnell and Aaron Gordon all making their presence felt in nearly every aspect of the game. It was McConnell especially whose court vision and awareness helped Arizona create separation in the second half, finishing with 10 points, six rebounds and eight assists.
Gordon sat most of the first half with foul trouble, but played all 20 minutes after intermission finishing with 10 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks. As for Parker, Hood, Coach K and Duke, the beat goes on and the competition doesn’t take much of a dip either. Their next game is Tuesday versus No. 22 Michigan.