The Miami Hurricanes found themselves in the same position that haunted them earlier this season: going against another elite team after a devastating last-second loss.
The Canes were unable to overcome the tall task of defeating No. 3 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium, losing 88-73.
Still, Miami Head Coach Frank Haith believes his team played their hearts out.
“I’m really proud of how hard our kids fought,” Haith said. “I thought we competed for the whole game.”
Earlier this season, Miami suffered a heartbreaking loss against N.C. State and had to find a way to regroup to go against top-ranked North Carolina. Then, the Hurricanes had another bitter loss against Wake Forest and had to collect themselves to play Duke in a hostile environment.
That was a tough task for the Canes, who have fallen to 15-6 and 2-5 in Atlantic Coast Conference play.
The win for the Duke Blue Devils improves them to 19-1 and 7-0 in the ACC.
The game-changing spark came when Duke started to put the ball into senior DeMarcus Nelson’s hands. Nelson took the ball right at the Hurricanes and scored 10 points in the first four minutes of the second half. Nelson finished with 21 points, 19 coming in the second half.
Nelson also had the burden of keeping Miami leading scorer Jack McClinton in check. For the second time this season, McClinton was held without a three pointer, going 0-for-4 from beyond the arc and held to ten points.
“Duke does a great job defending the three-point line, and they really force you to drive the basketball,” Haith said. “That’s something we have not done well all year.”
However, Duke did find themselves in a rugged match from tip-off.
To make matters worse, both teams had to battle foul trouble, as both teams combined for 27 fouls in the first half and finished the game with a total of 54.
Despite this, Duke took a 38-31 lead going into halftime. They had taken 18 three-point attempts compared to Miami’s three. However, the Canes had 20 points in the paint, compared to the Blue Devils’ two.
“I felt good about our ability to get in the paint[ed]area tonight,” Haith said.
Miami simply could not keep up in the second half.
Duke opened the half with a 21-11 run and eventually built an 18-point lead. The Hurricanes cut it to 71-61 due to strong inside play from forward Jimmy Graham. But the Blue Devils didn’t allow them to close the gap.
Guard James Dews led the Canes with 15 points and Graham added 13. Duke guard Greg Paulus finished with 16 points and commanded the flow of the game, especially in transition.
“Duke made some threes in transition that we gave up, but, for the most part, I was really proud of how hard we played,” Haith said. “I was really proud of how hard our guys worked.”
Lelan LeDoux may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.