No.3 Gonzaga Bulldogs have won the Maui Invitational, after a huge win in the finals of this tournament over the No.1 Duke Blue Devils. After a thrilling ending, Mark Few’s boys triumphed with 89-87.
Bulldogs played a fantastic match in which they prevailed mostly because of a much bigger experience they have. They were calm, even in those moments when Duke had the opportunity to win, and eventually managed to come on top of Mike Krzyzewski’s troops.
Everything was decided in the last 77 seconds. With 1:17 until the end of the game, the Japanese forward brought a two-point lead to Gonzaga. What followed could be described as a life or death battle.
Duke’s boys had several attacks which they couldn’t execute, while on the other hand, Gonzaga’s Hachimura and Brandon Clarke played with the nerves of their fans. These two have missed four straight free throws in the last half of minute, but they also posted four blocks in that period, one of them game-deciding by Hachimura on R.J. Barrett.
— Maui Invitational (@MauiInv) November 22, 2018
The game opened with Zaga dictating the tempo and stopping Duke’s freshmen on both sides of the court. In the first 20 minutes, Zach Norvell Jr. was the main weapon of the third-seeded team in the country, creating many problems for the favorites. High shooting percentage, which was almost 70% and extremely fast transition of the ball was something Duke didn’t know how to solve.
Brandon Clarke was the key for stopping Blue Devils’ terrific offense, as he controlled the paint and protected the rim impeccably.
But as soon as he reached his fourth foul, and sat on the bench, the problems emerged for the Bulldogs. The 16-point lead they had quickly melted, and Duke was in control of the game. Luckily, Hachimura stepped up and saved his team.
The Japanese had an all-around game dropping 20 points, along with 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks. Zach Norvell Jr. had 18 points, while Clarke posted 6 blocks and 17 buckets.
Barrett delivered 23 points, Zion Williamson 22 and 10 boards, while Cam Reddish added only 10. These three guys had a bad shooting night making only 20 hits in 51 tries.
Apparently, these guys still don’t know how to behave in stressful situations, and some experts are starting to question their ability to win the championship.
And really when you think a bit deeper, the question does arise. Is Duke capable of winning the championship?