LAHAINA, Hawaii - With only 13 seconds remaining in Wednesday's Maui Invitational title game against Marquette, Kyle Singler went to the line with No. 13 Duke up 75-73.
The 6-foot-8 freshman sunk his first shot, and Marquette head coach Tom Crean called timeout to try to psyche-out the rookie. Singler, however, would not be shaken. He nailed his second shot, sealing the Blue Devils' 77-73 win over the Golden Eagles and cementing his place as the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
"I knew I was going to make it. There was no doubt in my mind," Singler said of the second free throw. "There was no doubt I was going to make it a two-possession game."
With the tournament's top accolades, Singler joins the likes of Bobby Hurley, Steve Wojciechowski and Mike Dunleavy, who earned MVP honors in the Blue Devils' island-crown runs in 1992, 1997 and 2001, respectively.
"He's got great moxie," Crean said. "Kyle is someone who has gone in and done an excellent job of understanding what the Duke program wants from him. He can play outside, he can play mid-range, and he can play at the rim, and for a young freshman, he's a very good defensive player."
Singler's performance in Maui, where Duke has been perfect in four trips and 12 games, could be indicative of the Blue Devils' resurgence this season and the freshman's emergence as a go-to scorer.
He demonstrated maturity and prowess around the basket in a 21-point, 12-rebound effort over Princeton in Duke's first round matchup and in bouncing back Wednesday after a weaker performance in a 79-66 win over Illinois Tuesday night.
After their victory over Marquette, the Blue Devils hoisted the Maui Invitational trophy amid cheering fans at their vacation home with a view from the top. With the continued growth of its freshman class-led by Singler-Duke hopes it can recreate that image when it really counts: in March.
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