The stage was set for another Miami Miracle, LeBron James was in the house as was James Jones and Kobe Bryant. Dwyane Wade was electrifying the fans by hitting shots from mid-court at halftime. Dick Vitale was on the call for ESPN and the fans were ready for another upset over a nationally-ranked Duke squad.
It was just not going to happen. Miami hung in with Duke for the first 16 minutes, but it was too much Jabari Parker and too little rebounding for the Hurricanes who lost to Duke 67-46 before a near-sellout crowd at the Bank United Center Wednesday night. In beating the upstart Canes, Duke got their first ACC road win of the season.
"I'm a lot surprised at the way we played tonight," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said after the loss. "One thing that I told the players is that rebounding is nothing more than going after a loose ball. It's about effort and they outworked us tonight."
This Canes team is just too young, too fresh, too inexperienced. They will have their day. Just not today. It might not get better any time quick with the second-ranked Syracuse Orangemen coming into town for a Saturday afternoon tilt that will be broadcast nationally on CBS.
After beating Duke last year at home, 90-63, the Blue Devils made sure that history did not repeat itself. They would not leave Coral Gables feeling the same way that they felt last year as Shane Larkin dismantled the Blue Devils with long-range missiles.
"I'm glad I didn't see (Shane) Larkin out here tonight, or Kadji and the rest of those guys," Duke coach Mike Krzyewski said after the game. "We got killed here last year. I did not let them forget that,"
Parker, a freshman, who many project to leave school for the NBA at the end of the season, did not disappoint the 15 NBA scouts that were in attendance. Parker finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds in 32 minutes of work. His eight points at the half led all scorers. Parker was on the receiving end of highlight-like alley-oops, was blocking shots and grabbing boards. He showed that he was the real "diaper dandy".
"Jabari was a beast on the boards tonight. The rebounding stat really jumps out for me," Coach K said. "So much is expected of him. His defense was outstanding."
Donovan Kirk led Miami with 11 points and two rebounds. Garrius Adams and James Kelly each chipped in with eight for the Hurricanes. Following Parker for the Blue Devils was Rodney Hood who finished with 12 points and six rebounds.
"We had a lot of trouble rebounding tonight and that is what hurt us the most," Kirk said after the game. "We have to be more aggressive on offense and on defense. We just did not show anything tonight."
Miami trailed at the half 33-21 and saw the Blue Devils take over the game late in the first half. Duke closed out the half on an 11-2 run that put the game out of hand at the intermission.
"We were in it for most of the first half, but we let them off the hook," Kirk said. "We just did not play well tonight."
The defending ACC champion Hurricanes could not get much going offensively and got destroyed on the defensive glass. Duke out-rebounded Miami 19-13 in the first half and scored 18 second chance points to only four for Miami. Rion Brown could not get going and Miami had only two points from Manu Lecomte in the first half. Lecomte also had four of Miami's eight first half turnovers. In essence, he played like a freshman, but not like the freshman that Duke has with the name Parker stenciled on his back.
The Canes would not fizzle out completely before their home crowd. Miami went on an 8-2 run in the second half and cut the Duke lead to 44-31.
Larranaga thought that the Canes were playing as if they were in awe of Duke and were intimidated by the presence of the NBA stars.
"We froze in the environment. We could have done a lot better," Larranaga said.
The Miami coach went on to talk about Lecomte and how growing up in Belgium you get college basketball games once every blue moon. When he did get a game, he saw Duke playing on television. He thinks that he was one of the Canes that were a little star struck.
"Manu did not have a good game tonight. He was inconsistent and too up and down," Larranaga said. "It's to be expected. He won't sleep tonight."