LAHAINA - One of the best fields in EA Sports Maui Invitational history delivered a championship game to remember.
And write this down: Duke does not lose at the Lahaina Civic Center.
The Blue Devils ran their record on Maui to 15-0 over 20 years with a dramatic 68-61 win over Kansas in the final before as rocking a house as the tournament has ever seen.
The Duke Blue Devils celebrate after beating the Kansas Jayhawks 68-61 on Wednesday at the Lahaina Civic Center to win the EA Sports Maui Invitational for a fifth time
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
With the boosters from both schools trying to outscream each other - from the bleachers to the aisles to the overflow standing-room-only areas in the corners - the Blue Devils made the key plays down the stretch in a game that was in doubt throughout.
The crowd, which also included Maui major leaguer Shane Victorino, got a game that lived up to its billing as Duke (7-0), ranked sixth by The Associated Press, put its name on the Wayne Duke Trophy for a fifth time - no other team has won more than three Maui titles.
"It was just a great basketball game," said Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski. "Both teams were so deserving of winning, and that's what makes a great basketball game, where so many kids are making big plays."
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Kansas coach Bill Self said nearly the same thing moments earlier.
"Obviously, we are disappointed because we didn't win the basketball game," he said. "I don't know how you felt, but that was one great basketball game. Two good teams playing and it came down to one possession. That's the way most great games go."
The 14th-ranked Jayhawks (3-2) took their final lead, 61-60, on a 3-pointer by Elijah Johnson with 1 minute, 31 seconds to go.
Then the menehune who provide a magic that seems to hibernate in the walls until the Blue Devils arrive - they also own titles from 1992, 1997, 2001 and 2007 - came out to play.
Tyler Thornton, who had taken nine shots in Duke's first six games of the season, sank a 3-pointer that gave his team a 63-61 lead with 1:10 to play.
After Kansas point guard Ty-shawn Taylor turned the ball over for the 11th time in the game, Thornton hit the backbreaker on an off-balance heave from near the Duke bench to make it 66-61 with 20 seconds left and the shot-clock buzzer sounding.
"That was ballgame," Self said.
Thornton, who Krzyzewski inserted for defense in place of freshman Austin Rivers, one of the team's leading scorers, said the last shot felt good from the release.
"When Seth (Curry) kicked me the ball, I looked at the shot clock - it was three seconds - and I just tried to get up a good shot," Thornton said. "Once it left my hands I kind of thought it was going to be good and luckily it was."
Self said he didn't think Thornton saw the rim on the 25-footer.
"I saw the rim, but it was a tough shot," Thornton said. "I think Johnson was on me. He contested really well."
Self added, "I thought we were guarding him pretty good. That last possession, we couldn't have guarded him any better. That was unbelievable."
Self said Tuesday night that he expected an electric atmosphere with both teams' backers going crazy - perhaps better than an NCAA tournament crowd because of the cozy 2,400-seat gym. That's precisely what he got.
"I thought the crowd was unbelievable," he said. "But you guys are here every year, I'm not. I can't believe there being a lot better atmosphere than that game with two historic programs - with a packed house - in the history of this tournament."
Mason Plumlee and tournament MVP Ryan Kelly each scored 17 points for the Blue Devils, with Plumlee grabbing 12 of his team's 29 rebounds. Rivers added 10 points in a defensive battle that Duke won while shooting just 39.3 percent (22-of-56) from the field. The Blue Devils were 44.0 percent on 3-pointers (11-of-25), however.
Kansas was led by Taylor's 17 points and he also had four assists, but the turnovers proved costly. Robinson finished a stellar tournament with 16 points and 15 rebounds, while Jeff Withey added 14 points and 10 rebounds. The Jayhawks shot 42.9 percent (21-of-49), but were 2-of-8 from 3-point range.
"We came to the islands and I do think our team got better," Self said. "So, I'm proud of our guys. I thought we fought hard."
Duke, however, is the king of Maui. In the game's closing seconds, the Blue Devils faithful chanted "our house" over and over.
"That was as good an atmosphere as you could have, really," said Krzyzewski, who extended his Division I career wins record with No. 907. "Unless you're at someone's home court for that home team. That's what makes Maui. You watch these other tournaments and it is never really full, right? I mean, it's good basketball, but the atmosphere just isn't there and that's why it is a real honor for us to be here."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
Robinson 6-15 4-6 16, Releford 2-6 0-0 4, Withey 4-7 6-6 14, Taylor 6-13 5-6 17, Johnson 3-7 2-2 10, Tharpe 0-0 0-0 0, Teahan 0-1 0-0 0, Wesley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-49 17-20 61.
Mas. Plumlee 5-10 7-9 17, Kelly 6-17 2-2 17, Rivers 4-10 0-1 10, Dawkins 2-5 0-0 6, Curry 2-8 3-3 9, Cook 0-1 0-0 0, Thornton 2-4 1-2 7, Mi. Plumlee 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 22-56 13-17 68.
Halftime-Kansas 35-31. 3-Point Goals-Kansas 2-8 (Johnson 2-5, Teahan 0-1, Releford 0-2), Duke 11-25 (Kelly 3-8, Thornton 2-3, Curry 2-4, Dawkins 2-4, Rivers 2-5, Cook 0-1). Fouled Out-Wesley. Rebounds-Kansas 35 (Robinson 15), Duke 29 (Mas. Plumlee 12). Assists-Kansas 6 (Taylor 4), Duke 9 (Curry, Kelly 3). Total Fouls-Kansas 21, Duke 16. A-2,400.