CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM – After losing by 27 to Clemson, Duke looked like it was headed for another loss Saturday against Miami. But after relentless three-point shooting (Duke attempted an astonishing 38 treys in regulation--many of them unassisted shots--and made just 12), and forcing a few key turnovers, Duke was up by three with 31 seconds to play. It was Miami's Jack McClinton (34 points), however, who hit the most clutch three-pointer of the game, stepping back against Kyle Singler to fire a long distance shot from the shoulder, and tie the game at 68-68. Regulation ended with yet another missed-three pointer from Duke, who lived and died by the shot all game.
Overtime was a different story, as Gerald Henderson scored the first shot on a driving layup, at the 3:19 mark. Singler followed, by finding the rim after a frustrating series of blocked and altered shots, and called charges, in regulation, as he tried--with little success--to drive against a much larger Miami team. (Singler ended up with 17 points, on just 5-for-23 shooting.) Meanwhile, thanks to several critical offensive rebounds by David McClure, who was playing a reserve center role (in for Lance Thomas, who started over struggling big-man Brian Zoubek) that wound down the clock, Miami didn't score until the one-minute mark. The Hurricanes got several good looks inside--particularly by its hulking "forward" Dwayne Collins, guarded by McClure--that went in and out of the basket. Duke managed to shut down McClinton, who scored Miami's first points--a three-pointer--by the time the game was nearly over. It ended in the Blue Devils' favor, 78-75.
Other than McClure's new reserve-center role (which was a purely defensive, and help offense, effort, with 13 boards to go with 2 points and 2 assists in 29 minutes), and Thomas' nominal start over Zoubek (together, they played just 20 minutes), the biggest surprise Saturday was Greg Paulus' return as starting point guard. Evidently, Coach Mike Krzyzewski wasn't impressed with Nolan Smith's zero assist, 1-for-7, effort against Clemson, and he played him just 7 minutes Saturday. Paulus--who entered the year as the ACC's leading active assist-maker, but has played on the bench all season--hit his first three of the game, and went on to score 18, with 2 assists. His defense looked a bit weak, and his pull-up three's ill-advised (he was 4-for-12 from behind the arc, including several bad misses), for much of the game, but he connected when it counted, hitting a three to take the lead, at the one-minute mark. One little-noticed footnote to the game is that Smith entered late in the second-half to shut down McClinton, and he did: his first play was to force a half-court violation, and his pressure D seemed to exhaust the guard in the late stretch.
The game's momentum shifter occured when Miami's DeQuan Jones was ejected in the second-half--following a replay on the jumbotron--for elbowing Paulus in the neck under the basket. (In just 11 minutes, Jones had grabbed 6 boards, and looked to be able to drive.) The crowd, which had been lackluster until then--and whose loudest cheer so far had been a feeble, "Let's get hungry(?)"--went wild with indignation. On the inbounds pass, Scheyer got the ball back and hit a three in the corner (note your faithful scribe in the background, beneath Scheyer's right arm). On Duke's next possession, Singler a three from the key, following another offensive board from McClure (by the game's end, he had 7), marking Duke's largest lead in regulation: 5.
Miami, who led by as much as 15, threatened to win the entire game, with superior physical play and a greater inside presence, but was susceptible to its own bad passes, and Duke's ability to track down offensive boards. Amazingly, Duke matched Miami's rebounding by the end of overtime. (Amazing, because Duke's "center" for most of the game was 6-6, and the team looked to weigh, collectively, about 200 pounds less than Miami.)
"They outscrapped us," Miami coach Oliver Purnell said after the game.
For Coach K, it was a game "we lost, and then we won."
"There was some amazing things this afternoon for the making of the team," he said.
For one thing, he said he planned to keep Paulus in the starting slot.
"He became our leader today," he said, "which is a hell of a thing."