Gonzaga, led by Junior forward Rui Hachimura, defeated No. 1 Duke 89-87 in the finals of the Maui Invitational in Lahaina, Hawaii. Duke (5-1) lost its first game of the season, while No. 3 Gonzaga improved to 6-0.
Down Goes Duke
The top-ranked team in the country, Duke, lost their first game of the season after starting the season 5-0. Duke blew out #2 Kentucky 118-84 in the opening game of the season. Since then, Duke looked unstoppable.
Duke won a close game against #8 Auburn 78-72 to reach the finals of the Maui Invitational.
Duke closed as an 8-point favorite against #3 Gonzaga. Coming into the game, Duke was 17-0 playing in Maui.
The Zags jumped out to a sizable lead in the first half. Duke stormed back, but the veteran Zags team held them off.
“We got a couple of stops there and were lucky enough to get a win,” said Gonzaga coach Mark Few.
Rui Hachimura, from Toyama, Japan, led Gonzaga with 20 points. Hachimura made several key defensive plays down the stretch.
“Gonzaga is a team you’d like four days of preparation for,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. “They’re old and they play their butts off, and Hachimura is the guy you can go to, to get a bucket.”
Duke’s freshman tandem of RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson combined for 45 points in the loss.
Zion Williamson continues to impress everyone who watches him in action. The standout forward scored 22 points and added 10 rebounds in the loss to Duke.
Through six games, Williamson averages 20.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. He scored a career-high 28 points in his debut against Kentucky.
In his second game with the Blue Devils, Williamson dominated Army with 27 points and 16 rebounds.
Final Four Feel
The game in Maui had more of a March Madness Final Four atmosphere than a typical, breezy early season game in Hawaii.
Gonzaga, the veteran squad, came out ahead due to experience. Duke has become a one-and-done haven for the top high school talent in the country. No doubt Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett will be playing in the NBA some day, but their lack of experience attributed to Duke’s first loss of the season.
“I thought we looked young,” said coach Krzyzewski. “It’s not that we were tired, because we both played the same amount of games, but I think emotionally they were more ready to play than we were, and that’s something you learn.”
By the time March rolls around, Williamson and Barrett will be playing like seasoned veterans. A Gonzaga and Duke match up in the Final Four would be great for television and fans alike. The hoops world caught a glimpse of the action in Maui.
“It’s a great game for college basketball today,” said Krzyzewski. “The fan base is there, the effort, and two outstanding programs. That was really good basketball.”
Will there be a rematch between these two teams in Minneapolis for the 2019 Final Four?