No. 6 Duke holds off East Carolina 83-74

Nov. 20, 2013 @ 01:48 AM

Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood combined for 51 points and No. 6 Duke held off heavy underdog East Carolina 83-74 Tuesday in the NIT Tip-Off East Regional.

Hood recorded a career-high 30 points and went 12-of-12 at the free throw line.

Parker scored 21 points, grabbed nine rebounds and came up with a couple of timely blocks and a momentum-swinging jam for the Blue Devils (4-1), who found themselves in a one-possession game with less than three minutes to play.

Hood, a Mississippi State transfer, sank two free throws before the freshman phenom Parker swatted away shot attempts near the basket from East Carolina’s Prince Williams and Antonio Robinson with around two minutes to play.

Parker finished with six blocks.

“Winning plays — that’s what we expect from him,” Hood said of Parker. “He’s a great player and that’s what big-time players do. They make winning plays.”

“It took some great plays like that to beat them,” added Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Hood, who played every minute, scored 21 of his 30 in the second half and all 12 free throws came in the second as Duke, which led by as many as 18 points in the first half, watched its 43-32 halftime lead dwindle.

“They kind of slowed the game down,” said Parker. “Our game is fastbreak, get out quick, secondary options. We chose to keep attacking the rim even though they went 2-3 zone defense. They kind of stopped us from doing what we usually do and it ended up working.”

East Carolina (4-1) needed to erase a 17-point halftime deficit in Monday’s 76-74 win over Norfolk State to advance to meet the Blue Devils, who moved on to next week’s Tip-Off semifinals in New York’s Madison Square Garden following Monday’s tournament-opening rout of UNC-Asheville.

East Carolina had four players in double-figure scoring Tuesday, led by Prince Williams’ 15 points. The Pirates shot 19-of-20 from the foul line and got within a point after a pair of Williams free throws with 6:58 to play in the game.

“We played hard tonight and we played hard last night,” said Krzyzewski. “Our team was up to play. They respected the heck out of East Carolina. We were ready and we played hard. But so did they. This was a really good basketball game.”

Parker’s throwdown came with 4:52 left. The former Chicago prep star dribbled nearly the length of the floor before finishing with an emphatic one-handed slam over Robinson in transition that ignited the blue-clad Cameron Crazies.

“It was like a statement play," said Krzyzewski. “I thought it made all of our guys respond better.”

Point guard Quinn Cook was the only other Duke player in double-figure scoring with 14 points. Amile Jefferson and Rasheed Sulaimon each had six and the Blue Devils’ bench was outscored 25-6 by East Carolina.

“We don’t come into a game knowing or thinking it’s going to be a blowout,” said Cook. “Those guys were good, very good. We started off well and then kind of let off the gas pedal a little bit and let up. And those guys, they hit shots and played good defense. They have some finishers on their team.”

Marshall Guilmette looked like he could be one of those finishers for East Carolina. The 6-foot-10 sophomore was effective, scoring six points and giving Parker trouble on both ends of the floor, but was limited to seven minutes of action after leaving in the first half with a knee injury.

The loss snapped East Carolina’s longest winning streak in school history at nine games as the Pirates and Blue Devils met for the first time since 1991. Duke now leads the all-time series 21-0.

Krzyzewski said East Carolina takes on the personality of its fourth-year head coach Jeff Lebo, who was 5-5 against Duke as a four-year letterman at North Carolina from 1985-89.

“We could not have had a better opponent, a classier opponent or a better game to build on than we did tonight,” said Krzyzewski.

Duke hosts Vermont Sunday before resuming NIT Tip-Off play next Wednesday.

Contact the writer at kholtzman@hendersondispatch.com.