NEW YORK — Nick Johnson scored all but two of his 15 points in the second half and No. 4 Arizona beat No. 6 Duke, 72-66 on Friday night, in the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
The game was expected to be a matchup of two of the best freshmen in the country and, although Aaron Gordon of Arizona and Jabari Parker of Duke didn’t spend a lot of time covering each other, they were both key factors in the outcome.
Gordon, the quiet forward, finished with 10 points and seven rebounds and came up big late with a dunk on an alley-oop pass and then fed Rondae Hollis-Jefferson for a dunk less than a minute later to give the Wildcats (7-0) a 61-51 lead with 3:59 to play.
Parker, who had 19 points for his first game with fewer than 20 points this season, struggled against Arizona’s physical defense and was 7 of 21 from the field. He came into the game shooting 60 percent from the field.
The victory gave Arizona its fourth NIT Season Tip-Off title, tying Duke for the most ever.
Johnson, the Wildcats’ leading scorer at 17.3 per game, shook off a quiet first half to become the focal point of Arizona’s offense. His three-pointer with 11:07 to play tied the game at 45. He hit another 3 with 6:22 left to give Arizona a 57-48 lead.
Around the rims
• Keith Appling came off the bench to score 17 points and Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice added 15 apiece to power Michigan State to a 98-65 victory over Mount St. Mary’s.
• Marcus Smart scored 17 points as No. 5 Oklahoma State survived a major scare in a 69-67 win over Butler in an Old Spice Classic semifinal on Friday.
• LaQuinton Ross broke out of a frigid shooting spell by scoring 17 points Friday night and No. 7 Ohio State rode a 19-point first-half run to a 99-64 victory over North Florida.
• No. 9 Louisville bounced back from its first loss to roll past Southern Mississippi, 69-38. Chris Jones led the Cardinals with 18 points.