At Duke, Daniel Ewing has won a lot of games, but he’s also had to take the back seat.
As a freshman, he played on a team featuring five future NBA starters and was then partially overshadowed by the members of the 2006 “Super Six” recruiting class for three more years.
With so much star power around him, Duke’s senior guard has become the nation’s winningest active player with 109 career victories, but has never really had a chance to be The Man.
“Guys want to be the best at something they do,” Ewing said. “I always want to be the star, if possible. But sometimes you can’t.”
Senior Night will be all about Ewing. Not only will Ewing and fifth-year senior Reggie Love participate in pre- and post-game ceremonies celebrating their Duke careers, but Ewing will also be forced to shoulder more of the burden than he ever has in his Duke career.
No. 6 Duke’s matchup against Miami, tonight at 7 p.m. in Cameron Indoor Stadium, will be the team’s first major test since Sean Dockery suffered a medial collateral ligament tear Feb. 23 at Georgia Tech. Specifically, the game will be a test for Ewing, who will take on even more point guard responsibilities against a team known for its strong guard play.
“[Dockery] and Daniel shared our ball-handling responsibilities and on-the-ball defense, [and] there’s nobody who can take [Dockery’s] place in doing those things,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Daniel has more responsibility.”
Though Love described the possibility of Ewing being overworked as a “concern of the team,” he also expressed confidence that the senior guard can handle the increased workload.
“Daniel’s a tough kid, and he’s got to be in great condition,” Love said. “I think he’ll handle it well.”
Against the Hurricanes, Ewing will likely be responsible for star guard Guillermo Diaz, the conference’s second leading scorer at 18.6 points per game. Diaz scored 25 points on 11-of-23 shooting in the teams’ last meeting Jan. 19 in Coral Gables, Fla. He plays off the ball and shoots well from long range, ranking among the ACC leaders in three-pointers made and three-point field goal percentage.
Miami’s three-guard lineup could cause problems for the Blue Devils, who are left with only three available scholarship guards after Dockery’s injury. Robert Hite is the ACC’s fourth-leading scorer at 17.2 points per game and is also one of the conference’s top rebounding guards, hauling down 5 boards per contest. Hite shoots often from long range, tossing up nearly seven three-point attempts per game.
Anthony Harris, the Hurricanes’ point guard, is fourth in the ACC in assists with 4.77 per game, but he also turns the ball over more often than all but two ACC point guards.
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In the teams’ first contest, the Blue Devils were able to hold Hite in check, limiting him to just six points on 2-of-7 shooting. Harris had more success, racking up 15 points, but he only had three assists.
Duke was most successful pounding the ball inside against Miami the last time the teams played. Shelden Williams scored a career-high 30 points on 11-of-12 shooting from the field and a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line.
The Hurricanes allowed several opposing post players to notch big games in matchups immediately following their loss to the Blue Devils.
But recently Miami has performed better against opposing big men, including holding Georgia Tech’s Luke Schenscher to just five points Feb. 26.
“We’ve really made a conscientious effort to keep the ball out of the paint and really work hard at shutting down the opposing team’s post players,” Miami head coach Frank Haith said. “Shelden is definitely a guy that we must focus on. He can’t have a huge game like he had here against us.”
Although their post defense has recently improved, the Hurricanes’ interior players have excelled all season on the glass, ranking first in the ACC in offensive rebounds. This prowess may give them an advantage against a Duke team that has been outrebounded by significant margins in all of its losses this season.
“They’re going to come into Cameron on Thursday, they’re going to be aggressive, they’re going to be hungry,” Love said. “They’ve got guys that hit the boards really hard, so we’ve got to be ready to lock in defensively.”