By Douglas C. Kroll
The students showed up in full force at the Convocation Center on Wednesday night to support their surging Hurricanes, but Duke’s talent was able to hold off the ‘Canes 92-83. In front of a sold-out crowd, in which 1,000 were students who lined up as early as 3 p.m., the Hurricanes fought to the end against the number three team in the nation.
Miami was led by Guillermo Diaz, who finished with 25 points, while William Frisby added 18. Anthony King and Anthony Harris also finished in double digits. Miami’s leading scorer of the year, Robert Hite, was held scoreless in the first half and finished with six points due to suffocating defense from Duke’s backcourt, which is nearly 14 less than his season average. Hall-of-fame Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski couldn’t compliment the Hurricanes any more than he did after the game.
“We beat an excellent basketball team tonight,” Krzyzewski said. “Miami is not just athletic, but they are really a confident, positive group and very difficult to guard.”
Duke was led by a career night from Shelden Williams who finished with 30 points, including 11-of-12 from the field.
Early in the first half, a Diaz three pointer rimmed in to cut the Duke lead to 16-15. Miami took the lead 17-16 shortly thereafter with a Gary Hamilton tip shot with under 13 minutes to play.
After Miami then tied it at 22 on a Harris three, Duke reeled off a 10-2 run. During that run, Harris connected with Diaz for a thrilling alley-oop that brought the sellout crowd to a deafening standing ovation. Duke guard Daniel Ewing then hit back-to-back three pointers to finish the run and to quiet the crowd. A J.J. Reddick three pointer then gave Duke a nine point lead, its largest of the half. The Blue Devils went into the locker room with a 41-34 lead at the break.
The Blue Devils ended up shooting nearly 61 percent from the field for the game, including 48 percent from behind the three-point arc. The percentage was by far the best they shot all year.
Miami out rebounded Duke 37-30, including 20-6 on the offensive glass. King led the Hurricanes with 10 rebounds.
“We played tough out there tonight,” Miami Head Coach Frank Haith said. “Our kids fought to the end, which is important for us as we continue to build this program.”
Miami came out and cut the Duke lead to 44-40 early on in the second half, but that was as close as the ‘Canes would come as the Devils went on a 12-2 run and took a 56-42 lead.
The Blue Devils would lead by as many as 19 in the half, as Williams proved to be too much for Miami’s interior defense. No matter what zone defense the Hurricanes threw at Duke, the Devils were able to connect from outside, or inside. Miami never gave up down the stretch, cutting the lead to as few as 8 in the final minute, but Duke was able to hit its free throws to clinch the victory.
Although the Hurricanes hung in there with one of the best teams in the nation, they came into the game knowing they could win, not just wanting to hang in there with an elite team. One thing’s for sure: Haith can take home that Coach K. believes in him as a head basketball coach in the ACC.
“Frank looks like a guy who’s been here a while,” Coach K. said. “His team looks like a team who has been coach by him for a while.”
Douglas C. Kroll can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org