LAHAINA, Hawaii -- It was supposed to be a gradual improvement process for the Duke Blue Devils.
Someone evidently hit the fast-forward button.
The third-ranked Blue Devils sent a thunderclap message from out in the Pacific Ocean last night when they defeated No. 1 Arizona, 95-87, to win the Maui Invitational.
Getting significant contributions from several players, including tournament MVP Steve Wojciechowski (Cardinal Gibbons), who scored 13 points with five assists, the Blue Devils tore into the defending national champions early, then held off a late Arizona comeback to improve to 5-0 and perhaps move into the top spot in the polls.
"I was exhausted," Wojciechowski said after finishing the three games with 33 points, 20 assists and just six turnovers. "Arizona did a good job of coming back. We lost our composure a little, but regained it in time to win the game."
Wojciechowski's biggest contribution couldn't be measured by stats -- his defense against Arizona point guard Mike Bibby.
"Wojo took Mike out of his game," Arizona coach Lute Olson said of the Wildcats All-American, who entered the game averaging 16 points. "They did a nice job of helping out when he did get by."
Bibby finished with eight points on 2-for-10 shooting and had three turnovers.
Freshman guard William Avery had 21 points for Duke and Roshown McLeod added 18. Miles Simon had 25 points to lead the Wildcats (3-1), who last lost in February.
Duke led by 24 points early in the third quarter but stalled with a three-minute scoreless stretch that allowed the Wildcats to get within 14 points. But with McLeod and Wojciechowski scoring key baskets, the Blue Devils took a 70-53 lead into the final 10 minutes.
It was the Blue Devils who looked like defending national champions in the first half, blowing out to a 51-34 lead.
Duke hit nine three-pointers in the first half -- including their first three to open the game.
Duke seemed unfazed by the Wildcats' quickness. Instead, it rattled Arizona, forcing the Wildcats into 11 first-half turnovers.
Pub Date: 11/27/97