No. 10 Duke gives Illini first loss of season in Maui Invite

By Jason Grodsky

MAUI, Hawaii – Two of the winningest college basketball programs in the last four years met, not in a big arena in front of thousands of fans, but instead on the gym floor of the small Lahaina Civic Center.

Coming into the season Illinois and Duke were tied with Florida for the most wins in Division I over the last four years at 112 victories.

With a spot in this year’s Maui Invitational Championship Game on the line, the Illini and Blue Devils squared off in a semi final match up that saw the No. 10-ranked Blue Devils pull out a 79-66 win over the Illini.

Illinois out rebounded the Blue Devils 41-35 with 22 offensive boards, but Duke went on runs of 18-3 and 24-6 in the game and held the Illini to a season low 32.3 percent shooting (21-65) from the field and 25 percent from the three-point line (4-16).

“We came up against a good team,” senior forward Brian Randle said. “They made their shots when it counted and their free throws when it counted. Its going to be a learning experience for us and it showed us things that we need to work on.”

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    Randle led the Illini with 16 points, but it was Duke’s Gerald Henderson who stole the show. Henderson tormented the Illini on the offensive and defensive ends, scoring a game high 23 points, while grabbing four rebounds and two blocks to hand Illinois its first loss of the 2007 season.

    The game started out in a seesaw battle with the Illini pulling ahead to a 16-13 lead midway through the first half. The next 4 minutes and 50 seconds, however, Duke went on an 18-3 run to take a 33-21 lead. During the stretch referees called 9-of-11 fouls on the Illini.

    The Illini committed 13 fouls to Duke’s nine in the first half.

    “It was a hard played game,” head coach Bruce Weber said. “It was a difficult game to officiate because of the physicality and we needed to adjust accordingly to the way the game was being called.”

    With many Illini starters on the bench with foul trouble to end the half, junior guard Calvin Brock brought the Illini back, scoring eight points in Illinois 13-5 run to end the half, pulling the Illini within 44-36.

    Brock scored 10 of his 14 points in the first half, providing the Illini with the spark they needed to get back into the game.

    “I came in really hyped up to play against Duke,” Brock said. “They are one of the premier teams in the country. Coach (Weber) said, ‘If you’re not pumped to play against Duke then you shouldn’t being playing basketball at all,’ and that got my adrenaline pumping.”

    Illinois continued its run in the second half, scoring the first five points to pull within 44-41, but the Illini would get no closer.

    The Blue Devils 24-6 run in the second half gave them their biggest lead of the game at 73-54 with nearly six minutes left in the game. The Illini got within 11 points at 75-64 on a 10-2 run but couldn’t get over the hump.

    Duke came into the game never having lost in the Maui Invitational and improved its record to 11-0 in the tournament.

    Illinois will turn around and play Oklahoma State on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. local time in the third- and fourth-place game. The Cowboys were beaten 91-61 by No. 13 Marquette in the first semifinal.

    “Our biggest challenge will be bouncing back tomorrow,” Randle said. “We have to try and come away from this and improve.”

    For updates on the Illini throughout the EA Sports Maui Invitational, check back with DailyIllini.com.