No. 1 Duke, No. 3 Gonzaga to decide Maui title

Duke has met a challenge of dealing with game pressure.

Now it's a matter of perhaps doing it again.

The top-ranked Blue Devils needed to dig deep for the first time in a tight game in the Maui Invitational semifinals and now face No. 3 Gonzaga in Wednesday's title game at Lahaina Civic Center.

"It's their first game to play at that level with that pressure," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said of his freshman-heavy roster after the 78-72 victory against No. 8 Auburn in the semifinals. "To play this level of game at this time, and we'll play another one (Wednesday)."

Gonzaga learned to deal with challenges as well in the semifinals, rallying in the second half to overcome and then put away Arizona in a 91-74 triumph.

It was the second anxiety-impacted victory in as many days for the Bulldogs, who upended Illinois in Monday's first round.

But for Duke, it was a new situation with a tight game.

"I feel like we handled it really well," Duke freshman point guard Tre Jones said. "The coaches prepare us for situations like this. I feel like we handled the adversity and were able to make the plays to win the game."

Gonzaga came from 13 points down to clip Arizona, so the Bulldogs have learned to play under pressure as well.

"Just keep shooting and stay positive and stay confident," guard Josh Perkins said. "It's not just confidence with me, it's confidence in Coach (Mark) Few. (The coaching staff has) been there before and they stay positive."

Now that the Bulldogs have the assignment against the country's top-rated team, they want to do something with it.

"We came here for a reason," Perkins said.

While Gonzaga shares the stage with Duke, the Bulldogs don't feel out of place.

"Gonzaga is a household name now," Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell Jr. said.

Few said he was pleased how his team reacted with what he called some crazy lineups caused by foul trouble in the Arizona game. He said it's part of the benefit of finding out things about his team while playing such noteworthy opponents.

"There's a lot to get exposed and there's a lot to learn about your team," he said.

Junior center Marques Bolden provided one of his biggest games as a Duke player with a career-best seven blocked shots against Auburn. Those rejections also tied a Maui Invitational record.

"This is the first year he has been healthy the whole time," Krzyzewski said of Bolden. "So he has continuity in preparation, and it's a big thing. It's a big thing. He has made the most of it."

Few said he's aware of Duke's talent, but that his team's approach has to follow normal principles.

"We have to take care of the ball and we have to just defend aggressively like we did in the second half (against Arizona)," Few said.

After defeating Auburn, Duke is 12-7 all-time in top 10 matchups in November. A day later, the Blue Devils will be in another such clash.

Duke already owns a record five Maui Invitational titles as the Blue Devils are undefeated all-time in the tournament.

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