This time, there would be no euphoric ending for the University of Miami basketball team. No students storming the court. No national-headline-making 27-point upset of blueblood Duke.
This time, Duke did what Duke was supposed to do. The 18th-ranked Blue Devils, led by freshman phenom Jabari Parker, busted through UMs zone defense late in the first half, controlled the boards, and reminded the defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion Hurricanes that this is a different season with a convincing 67-46 victory.
The win avenged then-No. 1 Dukes 90-63 loss to UM last January, a game that helped catapult the Canes into national prominence.
I was glad I didnt see [Shane] Larkin and [Kenny] Kadji out there, joked Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
In many ways, the atmosphere at BankUnited Center Wednesday night was very similar to last seasons Hurricanes thriller. The blimp hovered overhead. ESPNs Dick Vitale enthusiastically shouted into his microphone. The student sections were packed. A near-capacity crowd of 7,972 showed up.
More than a dozen NBA scouts were scribbling furiously, this time surely focusing on NBA-ready Parker, who had 17 points and 15 rebounds.
And, once again, there were NBA stars sitting courtside. In fact, more NBA stars than last year. The Heats LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, James Jones, and Shane Battier were on hand, as was Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who delighted the crowd when he threw up The U early in the night. The Lakers are in town to play the Heat Thursday, and Bryant is close with Krzyzewski. after playing for him with the U.S. Olympic team.
Wade even provided halftime entertainment, taking half-court shots behind his back with Sebastian the Ibis.
UM coach Jim Larrañaga was disappointed in his teams passiveness, upset at Dukes 42-28 rebounding edge, and suggested that his players froze in front of all the celebrities and hype. Duke got 22 second-chance points to just seven for UM.
Im surprised about the way we played tonight, he said. I have utmost respect for Duke, their program, and their ability to execute their game plan. But one thing I told the players after the game is rebounding is nothing more than going after a loose ball They outworked us. For some reason, we were like deer in the headlights, with all the attention this game got. At home with all the celebrities that showed up, a lot of NBA players, a great crowd. Instead of that igniting us, we froze in that environment, didnt play with same kind of competitive spirit weve had.
UM (10-8, 2-4 ACC) hung with Duke (15-4, 4-2) early, getting baskets from big men Tonye Jekiri, Donnavan Kirk and James Kelly. They trailed by just three with 4:12 to go in the first half and the Blue Devils, who lead the ACC with 82.6 points per game, were way off pace with 22 points nearing intermission.
Thats when the game changed. Duke reeled off 11 unanswered points, and went on a 17-2 tear that stretched early into the second half. All of a sudden, the Hurricanes trailed 39-21 and never got close.
We played very well, Krzyzewski. said. That zone Miami puts up is very difficult to score against. Theyre long, athletic. Play slow tempo, which is what they should be doing, and they have a great coach in Jim. Our depth saved us. Otherwise, they wear you out. They were right there with Syracuse, and I think they can beat anybody in our league.
The Duke coach called Parker a beast on the boards and said he noticed James and Wade acknowledging one of Parkers many big-time plays.
UMs Kirk, who led the Canes with 11 points, had only one rebound.
We had a lot of trouble rebounding, Kirk said. We let them off the hook tonight and bit us in the butt.
Jekiri led UM with nine rebounds to go with his eight points. Kelly and Garrius Adams also had eight points. Freshman point guard Manu Lecomte struggled with four points, two assists and six turnovers. I think he was enamored with Duke and was very nervous, Larrañaga said.
The UM players, like everyone in the building, were impressed with Parker.
But Kirk said they gave Duke too much respect and he was embarrassed they didnt play better in front of the NBA stars.