Lahaina, Hawaii Duke's season-opening victory wasn't secure until the final buzzer. Win No. 2 for the top-ranked Blue Devils was decided with a 19-0 run over the last five minutes of the first half.
The defending national champions beat South Carolina 81-56 Tuesday in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational, less than 24 hours after they escaped with a one-point win over Seton Hall in the opening round.
"What we did the last five minutes of the first half was something we were striving for since the start of the tournament," said Mike Dunleavy, who had 11 points in the run. "We found our niche and made some big stops and fed off our defense."
The Blue Devils, who won this tournament in 1992 and 1997, go for a third title in tonight's championship game against surprising Ball State.
The 80-79 win over Seton Hall was still fresh when South Carolina's Carlos Powell hit a jumper to tie it at 25-25 with 5:14 left in the first half.
Duke held the Gamecocks (1-1) scoreless over their next nine possessions and closed the half with the 19-0 run to make the previous night seem a distant memory.
"We can have a run like that without pressing, it was possession by possession," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I thought we played outstanding defense today, and that carried over from the second half of yesterday."
Dunleavy started the run with a three-pointer, and he added eight more points before it ended just before the halftime buzzer when Nick Horvath took a beautiful pass from Chris Duhon on the break and dunked with authority to make it 44-25.
Dunleavy had 22 of his 24 points in the half on 8-for-12 shooting. He had more field goals than South Carolina (7-for-24) and three less points. Duke shot 53 percent (19-for-36), almost double the 29-percent effort by the Gamecocks.
"Mike had an amazing first half," Krzyzewski said.
Carlos Boozer added 19 points for Duke, while All-American Jason Williams had six points, seven assists and four steals.