The Duke Blue Devils needed a big game from Jabari Parker in the NIT Season Tip-Off Championship Game against the Arizona Wildcats, but he was unable to do so, and his team went on to lose.
After going up 36-33 at halftime, things were looking good for the Blue Devils. Three Arizona starters were in early foul trouble, including star freshman Aaron Gordon, who had been containing Parker for most of the game. When he went out, Parker started making big plays, and it looked like the Blue Devils could take advantage of the situation.
Instead, a big 24-8 run helped the Wildcats come away with the 72-66 win. It was the first time the Blue Devils had scored fewer than 74 points all season, and the team shot just 42.4 percent from the field after heading into this game shooting 53.4 percent.
Parker was a big reason for those struggles. He shot just 7-of-21 from the field, missing all five of his three-point attempts. He scored just 19 points, the fewest he's scored all season, while also adding a concerning five turnovers and just three rebounds.
Entering this game, Parker was a much more efficient player. He was averaging 23.6 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.9 turnovers per game. He was a terrific scorer, shooting 60 percent from the field and 60.9 percent from behind the arc.
With how much Parker struggled, Duke was exposed. His inefficiency kept the Blue Devils from putting up big numbers, as they entered this game averaging 90 points per game. Now, when other teams have to play Duke, they will make sure to focus in on shutting Parker down, as it hinders the rest of the team, even with scorers like Rodney Hood and Quinn Cook making plays.
The Blue Devils need to put up huge points on offense because they struggle mightily on defense. Before this game, they were allowing 74 points per game while opponents were shooting 44.5 percent from the field, with both marks ranking outside of the top 200 teams in the nation.
At 6-2, Duke isn't where it wants to be through the first eight games, even if the two losses came to Kansas and Arizona. Parker will bounce back from this game, because we've seen him play so well this season. However, opposing teams have found out that if they shut him down, Duke struggles to score, and that's very bad news this early in the season.