LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP)—Duke has a chance at another title on Maui, but the Blue Devils will have to defeat a team that beat them in a tournament championship game last season.
Gerald Henderson scored 23 points and DeMarcus Nelson added 16 to lead the 13th-ranked Blue Devils to a 79-66 victory over Illinois on Tuesday night in the semifinals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational.
Duke (4-0) will meet No. 11 Marquette, which beat Oklahoma State 91-61, on Wednesday night for the shot at title No. 4.
The Golden Eagles beat Duke 73-62 in the finals of the CBE Classic in Kansas City, Mo., last November, and most of that Marquette team is back.
“Coming into this tournament we felt Marquette was the team that presented the biggest challenge because of their veterans,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I hope our team has the energy and stamina because you have to play a great game to beat Marquette.”
The Blue Devils are 11-0 on the island, having won the championship in 1992, 1997 and 2001. No other school has more than two Maui titles in the 24 years of the tournament.
Brian Randle had 16 points to lead the Fighting Illini (3-1), whose best offensive weapon was a missed shot. They outrebounded Duke 22-5 on the offensive boards and finished with 31 second-chance points compared to eight for the Blue Devils.
Illinois shot 32.3 percent (21-for-65) as Duke played a lot of zone defense and that allowed the Illini to crash the boards the way they did.
“We just didn’t shoot the ball well and Duke gets some credit for that,” Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. “Sometimes we can be offensively challenged.”
As bad as Illinois’ shooting was, Duke’s was very good. The Blue Devils shot 57.7 percent (15-for-26) in taking a 44-36 halftime lead and finished at 56.5 percent for the game (26-for-46), including 6-for-13 from 3-point range.
Henderson was 8-for-15 from the field and Nelson was 6-for-8.
“Gerald and DeMarcus were really strong driving to the basket,” Krzyzewski said. “You need someone to play up like that.”
Duke’s biggest lead in the first half was 42-25 on a 3-pointer by Henderson with 2:36 left. Illinois closed the half with an 11-2 run to keep the sellout crowd of 2,500 at the Lahaina Civic Center interested.
The Illini kept the run going at the start of the second half with five straight points to make it 44-41 with 18:14 left on a layup by Randle, but the Blue Devils answered with a 9-2 run capped by a 3-pointer by Greg Paulus and Illinois was never closer than seven points the rest of the way with Duke leading by as many as 19.
“We battled but we got too far behind and used too much energy,” Weber said. “They have a lot of offensive weapons. You shut down the lane and they kick out for 3s. You defend that and go right at the hoop.”
It was a physical game with 49 fouls called, 27 against Illinois, and there was one scrap when Illinois’ Chester Frazier and Duke’s Kyle Singler got in each other’s face with 15:41 to play, but the officials got both teams to their benches for a TV timeout and there were no more problems.
“It was a big-time game and I thought both teams played their hearts out,” Krzyzewski said. “It was really a hard-fought game and I thought our perimeter people did an outstanding job. With eight minutes to go we had three players with four fouls but we were able to weather the storm.”
Krzyzewski said the difference on the boards came from the decision to play the defense Duke did.
“They run the motion offense and are moving around a lot so we’re switching a lot, which I thought hurt their offense, but once the shot goes up it’s tough to find your man and they were very aggressive, enough to get 22 offensive rebounds,” Krzyzewski said. “Obviously we’ve do it the same way again. You can’t take everything away from a team but we did take some of their motion away.”
The win was Krzyzewski’s 779th and moved him into a tie for eighth place on the career list with former Illinois and New Mexico State coach Lou Henson.