No. 8 Duke and No. 24 Purdue have found lots to be happy about so far in two games in the Phil Knight Legacy.
A tournament championship would certainly cap off the three-game experience.
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The Blue Devils (6-1) and Boilermakers (5-0) meet in the tournament final Sunday afternoon in Portland, Ore.
For Purdue, it’s a chance to knock off a Top 10 team in back-to-back games after taking down No. 6 Gonzaga 84-66 in Friday’s late semifinal.
“They’re out there playing with purpose and that’s what you have to have,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “Early in the season, very few teams play with purpose collectively.”
Duke will try to repeat its three-game success from the 2017 tournament in Portland. The Blue Devils are 5-0 all-time in the Phil Knight events.
Jeremy Roach’s 21-point outing in Friday’s semifinal against Xavier was one shy of the junior guard’s career-high mark for Duke. It was also the first 20-point game this season by a Blue Devils player.
“It’s awesome to have him getting those shots and leading the team in general, offensively and defensively,” Duke forward Ryan Young said.
In the 71-64 victory against Xavier, Duke addressed the trouble spots on offense from the opening-round squeaker against Oregon State. The Blue Devils shot 26.7 percent from the field in that game.
“I think we were hesitating a little bit, myself included,” Roach said. “We hesitated a little bit, not confident all the way with the shots. We just want to shoot our shots with confidence.”
First-year coach Jon Scheyer said Roach seemed comfortable in key moments, another development that’s starting to percolate across the Duke roster.
“Whether it’s for him or for somebody else, he got some really good looks, really good quality looks,” Scheyer said. “And then you, of course, have to follow it up with a stop, and we did that enough times to get some separation.”
Freshman Kyle Filipowski of Duke has scored in double figures in every game. He had five games in a row as the team’s leading scorer.
“I’ve said it a million times but it’s awesome to come out here and have so many different weapons,” Young said.
Scheyer was more intrigued with how the Blue Devils responded defensively. They gave up only two points in the final five minutes Friday.
“Winning and to close out a game it’s not about scoring, it’s about getting stops,” Scheyer said.
Duke has outrebounded every opponent this season, though the 33-32 margin on Xavier snapped a program-record string of six double-figure rebounding margins.
During Saturday’s day off between games, the Blue Devils planned to look at ways to put together better stretches in the opening minutes and cut down on foul trouble that could become a hindrance.
Purdue’s 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey could pose another type of challenge for Duke. He scored 23 points against Gonzaga, though his streak of double-doubles ended at four. He has posted at least 20 points in the past four games.
Purdue won a regular-season tournament last November by toppling North Carolina and Villanova in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic in Uncasville, Conn.
–Field Level Media
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