A 26-7 run that started midway through the first half brought Duke from down three to up 39-23 with 3:31 left in the half. After the 15:00 mark in the second half, the Illini would get no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
"They have a lot of offensive weapons," said Illinois head coach Bruce Weber. "You help, they kick it for three; you pop out, they take it to the hoop."
Duke shot 56.5 percent from the field, including 6-13 from behind the arc, in what was a plodding, physical struggle for most of the game. The Illini shot only 32.3 percent for the game.
"Our defense did a good job of making them take tough shots," said Duke point guard Greg Paulus.
Henderson seemed unstoppable at times for the Blue Devils. The explosive forward provided excitement at the rim, with several powerful dunks, and from the perimeter, going 2-4 from three-point range. His one handed power slam off a no-look pass from Jon Scheyer brought the crowd to its feet with 3:31 to play in the first half. He also brought energy and toughness to the defensive end of the floor, recording five rebounds and two blocks.
Henderson and senior DaMarcus Nelson, who added 16 against the Illini, have provided most of the energy to this Duke team during the tournament. Both exhibit strength that belie their 6-4 frames (Nelson was taking rebounds away from 6-10 Shaun Pruitt), run the floor well and will dunk at any given opportunity.
"[Gerald] and DaMarcus were really strong drivers today" said Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
After a 21 point effort the day before against Princeton, freshman phenom Kyle Singler was held to eight points on 3-6 shooting and committed three turnovers. However, the way Singler scored at will against the Tigers, displaying agility and tremendous hands in the paint and a smooth three-point stroke, demands that he be mentioned as one of their primary scoring threats. Although listed as a forward, he is a very capable ball handler. The Medford, Ore. native also displayed relentless effort on the glass and did a laudable job guarding Illinois senior forward Brian Randle, holding him to 5-12 shooting.
"Singler is probably our best guy in a mismatch at the end of a ball game because he's like a guard," said Coach K.
Sophomore center Brian Zoubek also displayed his defensive prowess against Pruitt, holding him to 4-12 from the field. In two games in Maui, Zoubek displayed a slow first step but proved he was nimble enough to guard athletic big men.
"That was the best Brian Zoubek has played," said Krzyzewski.
This is the fourth time the Blue Devils will play for the championship in Maui. They won each of the previous three times, including an 83-71 victory against Tim Buckley's Ball State squad in 2001. Marquette defeated Duke 73-62 to win last year's CBE Classic in Kansas City.
Jon Scheyer – So. G (6-5, 180)
Brian Zoubek – So. C (7-1, 260)
Nolan Smith – Fr. G (6-2, 180)