Two basic themes can suffice to summarize the University of Miami’s basketball season-to-date: more injuries than an emergency room and a maddening inconsistency in their play.
Miami (9-10, 2-3) entered Sunday’s game against No. 11 Duke hoping to beat the Blue Devils for the first time since 1962. Fresh off last week’s huge upset at No. 25 Maryland, in which they held the Terrapins to an ice-cold 22 percent shooting, the ‘Canes could not carry on the trend against Duke. The Blue Devils shot a torrid 81 percent in the first half en route to an 85-63 victory..
With both teams ranked near the bottom of the ACC in nearly every offensive category entering Sunday, a rational person may have predicted a defensive struggle. But this season, outcomes for Hurricanes have been as easy to predict as the weather, with wins over Georgia Tech and last week’s road upset of No. 25 Maryland balanced by losses to such basketball factories as Buffalo, Cleveland State and Binghamton.
Part of the problem: already undersized, a rash of injuries has depleted Miami’s frontcourt. Center Anthony King and forward Adrian Thomas are both out for the season and reserve forward Jimmy Graham broke his wrist last week at Maryland.
Adding to their troubles, their most reliable scorer of late, guard Anthony Harris, left the Duke game late in the second half with an injured calf muscle. Harris did play against Boston College Tuesday night, but scored only six points.
Miami head coach Frank Haith said after the Duke game that he has never seen a team afflicted with the amount of injuries as this one.
“Unless I can get some walk-ons from the school, I don’t know how we deal with it,” he said. “It is who we have. All we can do is be positive.”
Duke (14-3, 1-2), who started two players taller than Miami’s tallest starter, took full advantage of the size disparity. When Miami tried to double team center Josh McRoberts, they would throw it outside and knock down jump shots.
McRoberts, who Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski called a “point guard on stilts,” led the Blue Devils with five assists.
Duke, who made 17-21 shots in the first half, led by only nine at halftime, but behind 25 points from Jon Scheyer, controlled the second period.
Miami also has to get stronger play from sophomore guard Jack McClinton. Coming into the game ranked fifth in the conference in scoring, he was held to five points on 1-6 shooting.
With the extent of their post presence limited to freshman Dwayne Collins, who took only two shots against Duke, Miami relies on their guards for the bulk of their offense.
Collins has shown flashes of brilliance at times during the season, and exploded against Boston College for a career-high 24 points and 13 rebounds, 11 of them coming on the offensive glass.
“I think the biggest thing we need to get him to establish as we continue to grow as a basketball team is consistency,” Haith said. “That effort, night in, night out.”
The loss Tuesday to the Eagles dropped Miami to a 9-10 record on the season and below .500 for the first time in coach Frank Haith’s tenure at the school.
And even with Duke and Boston College now behind them, the road does not get any easier.
“I don’t want us to feel sorry for ourselves,” Haith said.
“It’s an unforgiving league. You got to fight, compete, every time you play.”
Brian Yates may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.