HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It all comes down to this: No. 1 Duke vs. No. 3 Gonzaga in the 2018 Maui Invitational championship game.
The Duke Blue Devils had their toughest test of the season against No. 9 Auburn Tuesday evening, but still pulled out the 78-72 not playing to their potential. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the win that even though his team is talented, nights like this will happen.
“You look at our league we're going to be in a lot of games. We're going to get beat. You can get beat and play well,” Krzyzewski said. “And this team (Auburn) would be an outstanding team in any league. And a lot of these kids won the SEC regular season last year and I can see why. And Bruce does a hell of a job of getting them to play so hard … So to play this level of game at this time, and we'll play another one tomorrow no matter who we play.”
As for Gonzaga, the Bulldogs will have to play their best game of the tournament to take down the Blue Devils after back-to-back nights of close calls against Illinois and Arizona.
“We'll have to really cerebrally challenge them tonight and there's not going to be any physical things we can do, but just come out and play,” said Gonzaga head coach Mark Few. “But that's what makes this tournament awesome. This little band box that we play in and you don't get the locker room until 10 minutes before you go out on the floor and teams are filing in and filing out. It's back to the true essence of why we all got involved in basketball. So we'll get them ready and they will be ready and we'll give it a good run.”
On the court, it’ll be a tall task for the Bulldogs starting five to handle Duke’s athleticism and ability to run in transition. But after the win over Arizona, Gonzaga’s Josh Perkins remained unfazed about going up against the hype train of Duke.
“We came here for a reason, you know,” Perkins said. “I said Coach K was a Hall of Fame coach, we got a Hall of Fame coach on our side too. And rolling with the guys we have, and I know coach is too, so like we said we're looking forward to that matchup tomorrow and showing the world who we are.”
Duke will take on Gonzaga Wednesday at the Lahaina Civic Center in the tournament’s championship game at 12 p.m. HT.