LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP)—It took Kyle Singler five games to place himself on an elite list of Duke basketball players.
The freshman forward scored 25 points, including the clinching free throws with 13 seconds to play, and fought off a leg injury to lead the 13th-ranked Blue Devils to a 77-73 victory over No. 11 Marquette on Wednesday night and claim their fourth EA Sports Maui Invitational championship.
Duke (5-0) won the title here in 1992, 1997 and 2001. The Blue Devils’ first 11 wins came by an average of 18.9 points and nine were by at least 10 points. This one went down to the final seconds.
No other school has won more than two championships in the 24 years of this event.
Singler, who was 7-for-11 from the field and 8-for-8 from the free-throw line, joined Bobby Hurley, current Duke assistant Steve Wojciechowski and Mike Dunleavy as Blue Devils who have won the MVP at the Maui Invitational.
“I felt honored to win the MVP but the main goal coming to Maui was to win the championship and that’s what we accomplished,” he said. “I just wanted to do what I had to do and it meant I got the MVP.”
Singler was stretched out on the floor near the Duke bench when he was out with the injury. He jumped up and sprinted by the bench to get back in the game and took a bottle of Gatorade with him to the scorer’s table to report in.
“I got bumped in the knee and it was more of a knot than a cramp in the leg but I have two,” Singler said.
DeMarcus Nelson added 16 points for the Blue Devils, whose fans were chanting “our house” in the final minute and as the awards were being presented.
The Lahaina Civic Center may not be Cameron Indoor Stadium but Duke has a better winning percentage there.
“We look at it as a mini-Cameron, it’s nice and intimate,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We love coming here and have been a little bit lucky and our guys have played really tough. We’ll come back, I know that.”
Lazar Hayward had 14 points for the Golden Eagles (4-1), who were making their first appearance in the tournament.
Marquette beat Duke 73-62 in the championship game of the CBE Classic in Kansas City, Mo., exactly a year ago. It was the Golden Eagles’ second straight preconference tournament title as they won the Great Alaska Shootout in 2005.
“This was special for this team. It was a chance for us to be a champion,” Nelson said. “We talked about that since the beginning of the year. It was our first chance to be a champion. At this time last year we didn’t do that. We’ve improved and gotten better.”
Duke took a 67-61 lead with 6:03 to go on a low move by Lance Thomas off a pass from Singler, his only assist of the game.
The lead was six one more time, before Maurice Acker hit a 3 for the Golden Eagles and Ousmane Barro made one of two free throws to get Marquette within 69-67 with 4:42 left.
The Golden Eagles were within 75-73 with 33 seconds left on a layup by Jerel McNeal.
Singler grabbed a loose ball and was fouled. He made the first free throw and Marquette called a timeout, trying to freeze the freshman.
“I knew I was going to make it,” Singler said of the second free throw, “there was no doubt in my mind I was going to make it a two-possession game.”
Marquette fought off foul trouble in the second half and the Golden Eagles were called for 27 fouls, nine more than Duke.
“Even though we didn’t get what our goal was, it was a fantastic experience for our team,” Marquette coach Tom Crean said. “Both teams brought out the toughness in each other. Tonight, their strengths were a little too good for us: their driving, they got too many free throws and the rebounding. We will come out of here with a much broader and greater perspective of what we are as a basketball team.”
Marquette’s Dominic James had 12 points on 4-for-16 shooting.
“In the first half I kind of had it going but it was nothing they did,” James said. “A lot of the missed shots were layups, shots I usually make. Unfortunately I didn’t in the seocnd half.”
Both teams are perimeter-oriented, yet Duke went inside early, scoring 10 of its first 14 points on drives, tip-ins or layups.
A big lift for the Blue Devils was 7-foot-1 sophomore center Brian Zoubek, who scored four points on offensive rebounds and had an assist when he threw the ball back out to Greg Paulus for a 3-pointer that was part of the 11-2 run that gave them a 35-27 lead with 4:41 left.
Singler capped the run with a 3 and the freshman added another one 2:24 later to make it 39-30.
Even though both teams shot well in the first half—Duke hit 53.3 percent and Marquette was at 44.8—the defense was intense and every shot was contested.
James hit a scoop shot on a drive with seven seconds left to bring Marquette within 43-36 at halftime.