Jabari Parker wasn't able to lead Duke to a victory in his first matchup with a fellow elite freshmen earlier this month. He'll get the shot to do so against another one Friday night with a tournament championship on the line.
Parker looks to help the sixth-ranked Blue Devils continue their dominance in the NIT Season Tip-Off against Aaron Gordon and No. 4 Arizona in the final at Madison Square Garden.
Parker is averaging 23.6 points, 60.0 percent shooting and 8.7 rebounds while playing just about everywhere on the floor for the Blue Devils (6-1). He had 27 points in a 74-64 semifinal victory over Alabama to become the second player in school history to open a season with at least 20 in seven straight games.
He also matched his previous high point total, which came in a 94-83 loss to then-No. 5 Kansas and freshman phenom Andrew Wiggins on Nov. 12.
Parker and Gordon (12.5 points, 9.7 rebounds per game) played together on the junior national level and remain good friends. However, Parker says he's focused on helping Duke increase its record number of Tip-Off titles to five and not another high-profile individual matchup.
"Getting the 'W' is most important," he said. "I have my own aspirations and my own dreams about playing here. The team goal is just getting the win and that's all that matters and that's my mindset."
Sporting a 25-2 all-time record in the Tip-Off, Duke has won 14 straight in the event.
Arizona (6-0) is right behind the Blue Devils with three tournament titles and finished second in its most recent appearance in 2004.
Duke beat Arizona 82-72 in the 2001 national championship game. In the next and most recent meeting, the Wildcats won 93-77 in the regional semifinals of the 2011 NCAA tournament.
"Arizona is probably ahead of some other teams," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose team won Wednesday despite shooting a season-low 43.1 percent and committing a season-high 19 turnovers. "Arizona, Michigan State, because they have guys who have played prominent roles, back.
"Over the years, we have always played really difficult schedules and this year is no different. I'm just glad we have an opportunity to play for a championship."
Though Krzyzewski is concerned with a Wildcats team that's allowing an average of 58.3 points, Arizona coach Sean Miller's team survived a scare in Wednesday's 66-62 semifinal win over Drexel.
Arizona fell behind 27-8 but cut the deficit to nine at the break despite shooting 26.1 percent. The Wildcats went on a 25-4 run spanning halftime to wipe out the 19-point hole and take their first lead, 33-31 on a basket by Brandon Ashley with 16:11 to play. That was the first of 11 lead changes in a span of 8 1/2 minutes as Drexel continued to hang around.
"I think the story line for this game may be that Arizona was overlooking Drexel but that's the furthest thing from the truth," said Miller, whose team shot 46.7 percent in the second half.
"We're a program that has come to expect success in tournaments and we know we have to play better in the championship game but we're looking forward to the opportunity."
Averaging a team-leading 17.3 points, Arizona guard Nick Johnson had 20, five rebounds and four assists Wednesday. Gordon finished with just 10 points and shot 2 of 6, but had 13 boards.
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