KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—Tom Crean has guided Marquette to consecutive wins over teams coached by Bob Knight and Mike Krzyzewski the past two nights.
Think the Golden Eagles—and their coach—belong among college basketball’s elite?
Dominic James scored a season-high 25 points and led a late surge to help No. 13 Marquette beat No. 9 Duke 73-62 on Tuesday night in the championship game of the CBE Classic.
The Golden Eagles turned 19 Duke turnovers into 25 points, one night after scoring 27 points off turnovers in an 87-72 victory over Texas Tech.
“Beating Bobby Knight and Mike Krzyzewski—to win validates our hard work,” said Crean, who has averaged 20 wins in seven seasons at Marquette, including a Final Four berth in 2003. “To play against great coaches and great programs, to cut down the nets and be able to raise this championship banner at our arena will bring memories that will last forever.”
They probably wouldn’t have been possible if not for James, Marquette’s gritty sophomore guard.
With the game tied at 56 and 6:23 to go, he scored 10 points in a span of less than 2 1/2 minutes. James was fouled connecting on a fall-away jumper with 3:57 left, and after he made the free throw Marquette (6-0) led 67-58.
The Blue Devils (4-1) could not mount a rally over the final couple of minutes, giving Crean his seventh win in 18 games against teams ranked in the top 10.
“Our whole mentality was we couldn’t take a possession off against these teams at all,” Crean said.
James, who was selected tournament MVP and joined backcourt mate Jerel McNeal on the all-tournament team, also had seven assists and flustered Greg Paulus all night.
The Duke guard, who has been hampered by a foot injury, had only seven points and committed six turnovers before fouling out late in the game.
“We committed 19 turnovers to their nine. With that turnover differential, you’re not going to win,” Krzyzewski said. “They had 25 points off our turnovers. You can’t do that. They scored off our turnovers. Our defense was pretty good.”
Josh McRoberts led the Blue Devils with 15 points. DeMarcus Nelson added 13 but scored only two over the final 34 minutes as Duke cooled off to a 33 percent clip from the field in the second half.
“We quit giving him open shots, for one thing,” Crean said. “We adjusted. We kept him in front of us and didn’t give him the looks he had early. He was a huge part of our game plan.”
A large Marquette contingent held its collective breath with 2:04 to go when James got tangled with Nelson and fell to the floor holding his right ankle. James was helped to the bench but was hopping around on his feet a moment later, imploring Crean to let him back in the game.
James returned with 50.8 seconds to go and the outcome already decided.
“That kid James is a really good player,” Krzyzewski said. “Strong, stocky, quick and a really good will. He reminds me of Jason Williams. He’s not as tall, but because of his strength.”
Nelson, also chosen for the all-tournament team, got off to an electrifying start, scoring 11 of Duke’s first 15 points on three 3-pointers and a dunk. By the time he hit McRoberts for an ally-oop reverse jam, the Blue Devils had a 21-16 lead midway through the first half.
But after Brian Zoubek scored in the post a couple of minutes later to make it 23-18, the Blue Devils went nearly seven minutes without a field goal, allowing Marquette to take a 28-26 lead with 2:38 to go in the half.
McRoberts tied the game at 32 with 31 seconds left, but James curled in a jumper a few seconds later to give Marquette a 34-32 lead at the break.
The title game of the CBE Classic, formerly the Guardians Classic, was the final one at venerable Municipal Auditorium, which has hosted more Final Fours (nine) than any other building. The last two rounds move next year to the Sprint Center, now under construction in downtown Kansas City.
In the third-place game, Air Force beat Texas Tech 67-53.