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No. 6 Duke beats Alabama 74-64

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Duke's Quinn Cook (2) shoots against Alabama's Carl Engstrom (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-off tournament Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow) Duke's Quinn Cook (2) shoots against Alabama's Carl Engstrom (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-off tournament Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
NEW YORK -

Jabari Parker is already in the Duke record book.

The heralded freshman matched his season-high with 27 points, setting the school record for consecutive 20-point games to start a career and the sixth-ranked Blue Devils beat Alabama 74-64 on Wednesday night in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off.

"I think I've got a long ways to go," the 6-foot-8 forward said after his seventh 20-point effort. "I need to be sharper in the beginning of the game. Nothing is ever too easy. I get open looks when they look at Rodney (Hood) or Q (Quinn Cook). I get those opportunities as much as possible."

He takes advantage at an alarming rate. He entered the game shooting 58 percent from the field and he improved that number by going 9 of 12 from the field. He had eight rebounds and was 9 of 10 from the free throw line in matching his point total in the Blue Devils' only loss, 83-54 to No. 2 Kansas.

"He gets his points in the flow of the offense and we should go through him a lot," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We had foul trouble with Rodney. Usually it's through them. We went to Jabari even more."

The Blue Devils (6-1), who committed a season-high 19 turnovers, will face No. 4 Arizona, which beat Drexel 66-62, in the championship game on Friday at Madison Square Garden. It's a matchup of the program with the most NIT Season Tip-Off titles -- Duke with four -- against one of three programs tied for second with three.

"Arizona is older and they are really big for us," Krzyzewski said. "Over the years, we have always played really difficult schedules and this year is no different. I'm just glad we have an opportunity to play for a championship."

Arizona is probably ahead of some other teams. Arizona, Michigan State, because they have guys who have played prominent roles, back. And then they have added a great guard and a great wing to their lineup, and so they are big. It will be completely different, from playing this game. They can post three guys from their starting lineup. They post their front line. That's where we are not real big. That will be interesting how we try to get that going.

"Nick Jacobs led Alabama (3-2) with 18 points and seven rebounds while Trevor Releford and Algie Key added 11 points each.Duke is 25-2 in the NIT Season Tip-Off and has won 14 straight games in the tournament.

The Blue Devils were coming off a 91-90 home victory over Vermont, a game that ended with the Catamounts having the ball but not getting off a final shot.It didn't get that close at the end Wednesday, but the Crimson Tide took advantage of the turnovers to be within 56-51 with 5:19 left. Alabama was within six points three times in the final 3:18 but the Blue Devils were able to go up by as many as 10 points.

"Teams play well against us. It's a great opportunity for the sun to shine on a program, and so we have to expect that," Krzyzewski said.The only other Duke player to start his career with six straight 20-point games was Art Heyman in 1961-62.

"He's probably, in my eight years as a head coach, the most talented freshman I've seen just from his size, his physicality and his skill level," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said of Parker. "He's able to make tough shots and free himself for the open shot and he's able to get himself to the free throw line. He's just a really, really talented player. They have got a lot of really good players around them, as well."

Duke closed the firsts half on an 11-2 run to take a 33-22 lead and the Blue Devils opened the second half on a 13-6 run for their biggest lead of the game, 46-28 with 15:23 to play.The Crimson Tide, taking advantage of Duke's turnovers, used a 12-0 run to get within 46-40 with 12:07 left.

"They had a pretty sizable cushion," Grant said. "We weren't able to be effective enough to win the game. Whatever the turnovers were, they scored 74 points in the game, shot a pretty good clip from the field, got to the free throw line quite a bit. I would say their attack against what we were doing was pretty effective."

The Blue Devils are 23-7 at Madison Square Garden under Krzyzewski and they have won 15 of their last 17 games there. Duke has won 27 straight regular-season tournament games.The loss dropped Alabama to 32-99 against Top Ten teams. The Crimson Tide's last win over a Top Ten team was Feb. 18, 2006 against then-No. 8 Tennessee.

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