NEW YORK — Nick Johnson scored all but two of his 15 points in the second half and No. 4 Arizona beat No. 6 Duke 72-66 on Friday night in the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
The game was expected to be a matchup of two of the best freshmen in the country and, although Aaron Gordon of Arizona and Jabari Parker of Duke didn’t spend a lot of time covering each other, they were both key factors in the outcome.
Gordon, the quiet forward, finished with 10 points and seven rebounds and came up big late with a dunk on an alley-oop pass and then fed Rondae Hollis-Jefferson for a dunk less than a minute later to give the Wildcats (7-0) a 61-51 lead with 3:59 to play.
Parker, who had 19 points for his first game with fewer than 20 points this season, struggled against Arizona’s physical defense and was 7 of 21 from the field. He came into the game shooting 60 percent from the field.
The victory gave Arizona its fourth NIT Season Tip-Off title, tying Duke for the most ever.
Johnson, the Wildcats’ leading scorer at 17.3 per game, shook off a quiet first half to become the focal point of Arizona’s offense. His 3-pointer with 11:07 to play tied the game at 45. He hit another 3 with 6:22 left to give Arizona a 57-48 lead.
He was chosen the tournament MVP.
The Wildcats, who finished with a 36-28 rebound advantage, had five players in double figures. Brandon Ashley had 13 points and Kalen Tarczewski and T.J. McConnell both scored 10. Tarczewski had nine rebounds and McConnell had eight assists.
Rodney Hood led Duke (6-2) with 21 points and eight rebounds. The Blue Devils’ other loss was to No. 2 Kansas.
Gordon, who came in averaging 12.5 points and 9.7 rebounds, had a big block of Rasheed Sulaimon with 45 seconds left and the Wildcats leading 65-59.
Duke had won 15 straight games in the NIT Season Tip-Off and had won 15 of its last 17 games played at Madison Square Garden.
The Blue Devils, who came into the game shooting 53.4 percent from the field, finished 25 of 58 from the field, including 4 of 14 from 3-point range, where they came in shooting 44.7 percent. They were held 24 points below their scoring average for the season.
This article was originally posted on ESPN.com