Nov 27, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Josh Hairston (15) defends against Alabama Crimson Tide guard Retin Obasohan (32) in the first half of NIT at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Jabari Parker did some more Jabari Parker things, and the Duke Blue Devils got by a relentless Alabama team, 74-64.
It was a roller coaster of a game for Duke, who overcame a miserable start on offense to go on a 41-16 run, only to see their double-digit lead evaporate due to an extensive amount of turnovers and blown chances. Fortunately, Parker was a consistent force for the Blue Devils, and he always managed to keep them afloat when the momentum began to turn.
It was actually a different freshman that sparked Duke’s initial run, however.
With a 1-11 start from the field leaving the Blue Devils trailing 12-5, Matt Jones drilled corner three-pointers on consecutive trips to cut the ‘Bama lead to 12-11. The shots would snap the entire team awake, specifically Parker and Quinn Cook.
After Parker scored four consecutive points to tie the game up at 15-15, Cook took over, scoring 9 of the next 11 to push Duke ahead 26-20.
The rest would be all Parker, as the freshman single-handedly went on a 7-2 lead to close out the half and leave the Blue Devils up 33-22.
The beginning of the second half would be more of the same, with Parker and Cook carrying Duke to a seemingly concrete, 46-28 lead. As quickly as the lead was built, however, it would crumble, as a switch to a full-court press from Alabama set off a string of turnovers and sloppy play from the Blue Devils.
By the 11:30 mark, the lead had been cut to 49-42, and the rest of the game who turn into a game of “who can suck the least?”. Despite the sloppy offense, Duke’s defense never let up, and they were able to consistently pressure Alabama into difficult shots and pressure situations the rest of the way.
Led by an incredibly tough effort from Parker and Tyler Thornton, this defense held up long enough for Duke to hang on and pull off the victory, which was essentially sealed by a Thornton steal and layup that put them up 68-59 at the 1:57 mark. A strong effort from the free throw line, where the Blue Devils finished 24-29, made sure Alabama never had a serious chance to get back into it over the last two minutes.
Parker ended up with 27 points–going 9-12 from the field and 9-10 from the free-throw line–, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, and a block in another phenomenal effort. Thornton finished with 6 points, but added 5 steals and 4 rebounds in one of the most impressive individual defensive efforts we’ve seen all year from a Duke player. In another Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde performance, Cook finished with 17 points, but made plenty of poor decisions throughout (he was not alone in this, either). Jones tallied 13 points in his biggest game as a Blue Devil.
Alabama was led by Nick Jacobs, who totaled 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks in the contest.
Duke (6-1) will play Arizona in the NIT Tip-Off finale, while Alabama (3-2) will face Drexel in the consolation game. Both contests will be held on Friday.