NEW YORK – J.J Redick scored a season-high 31 points to help top-ranked Duke beat pesky Drexel 78-68 in the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals Wednesday night.

Duke (4-0) had run through its first three opponents, winning by an average of 33 points, holding them to 36.5-percent shooting, and forcing 57 turnovers.

Drexel (3-1) wasn’t intimidated facing a top-ranked team for the first time in school history and found itself trailing 52-50 with 14:31 left in the second half before Duke went on a 7-0 run to take control.

Josh McRoberts had four points during the 7-0 run that put the Blue Devils ahead 59-50. Drexel could get no closer than five the rest of the way.

Duke advanced to the championship game Friday night against the winner of the semifinal between No. 11 Memphis and No. 16 UCLA.

Dominick Mejia, a junior who transferred from North Carolina State, scored a season-high 25 points, including 14 in the first half to lead Drexel. Bashir Mason added 15 for the Dragons.

Sheldon Williams had 20 points for the Blue Devils, despite picking up his fourth foul with 15:37 left in the game.

The Dragons stayed with Duke in the first half, taking as big as a five-point lead, 16-11 at 11:46. Duke answered with a 7-0 run to take an 18-16 advantage. The lead changed 16 times after that, and Duke lead 41-40 at the break.

Redick had 17 points in the first half and moved into 13th place on the school’s career scoring list, passing Dick Groat and Jeff Mullins.

With the victory, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski tied Temple’s John Chaney for 14th place on the career victory list 725. The Blue Devils also improved to 17-2 in the tournament.

Drexel, from the Colonial Athletic Association, is off to its best start since 1997-98 it also went 3-0. The Dragons beat Princeton and Sam Houston State to get to New York and hoped to be the first unranked team to knockoff a No. 1 team since Xavier beat St. Joseph’s on March 11, 2004, in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament.

AP-ES-11-23-05 2116EST


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