In a game billed as a match-up between Duke freshman Jabari Parker and Arizona freshman Aaron Gordon, Sean Miller and the rest of his Arizona squad had other ideas, using incredible balance on the offensive end, and suffocating pressure on the defensive end to grab a 72-66 victory in the finals of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
A multi-faceted effort (led by Gordon and another freshman forward, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson) held the heralded Parker to just 7 for 21 from the field, and as a team, Duke managed to shoot just 43% from the field and 28.6% from beyond the arc in route to those 66 points. For Parker, it was an “off” night despite 19 points, but the majority of his issues were affected (if not caused) by the defensive pressure.
As for Gordon, the stud freshman did finish with 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists, but he was merely a member of an entire starting 5 that exceeded double-figures in scoring. Nick Johnson led the way with 15 points in 31 minutes, but TJ McConnell (who played 39 minutes) and the aforementioned Hollis-Jefferson were equally as fantastic in the win. Whispers of Hollis-Jefferson shooting up draft boards were all over the place during the game, but it should be noted that both he and Gordon were much better than the stat sheet indicated.
On the Duke side, Rodney Hood (21 points on 8-of-14 shooting) and Quinn Cook (13 points, 6-of-9 FG) were very good, but they couldn’t overcome the subpar game from Parker, and their supporting cast struggled mightily in the game. In addition, the glaring lack of rim protection for the Blue Devils reared its head, and Arizona absolutely had their way at the rim from the opening tip.
In the grand scheme, this is nothing more than a 6-point victory for Arizona over a quality opponent. It would be borderline irresponsible to glean too much from this one on either side this early in the year, but it was an impressive showing from the ‘Cats, and it reminded us that Jabari Parker is, indeed, human.