BROOKLYN, N.Y.—No. 1-seed Duke survived against No. 9-seed Syracuse Thursday and now finds itself against No. 4-seed Miami at Barclays Center. Much like in their game against the Orange, the Blue Devils are on the ropes so far and are tied 36-36 at the half. Here are five of our observations from the opening period.
Miami makes it rain
After Thursday’s game against Syracuse started out with Duke letting it loose from the land of plenty, the Blue Devils continued the trend against Miami. Duke shot two 3-pointers on its first possession and freshman forward AJ Griffin drained Duke’s first triple of the night. Miami’s Charlie Moore was not to be outdone though, as the guard hit two treys of his own in the beginning of the game to help give Miami the lead. Forward Anthony Walker and guard Kameron McGusty both tossed in a three too and by the 13:36 mark, Miami was out to a hot 4-of-7 clip from the field. The three-ball took a rest for Duke until the final three minutes of the half when Griffin drilled two clutch ones to make it a 32-32 game.
Hurricanes hawking the ball
Heading into Friday’s contest, the Hurricanes led the ACC in steals, and they showed it off. Forward Sam Waardenburg stripped junior wing Wendell Moore Jr. at halfcourt at the 15:14 mark and finished the easy fastbreak layup to make it a 15-7 Hurricane lead. Miami forced Duke to turn the ball over 17 times in the first matchup of the season, and while the Blue Devils are not on track to repeat that with just seven turnovers, they are on pace to surpass their per-game average of 10.3.
Getting boards at Barclays
Miami is statistically the worst rebounding team in the ACC, and Duke’s 21-16 advantage on the boards shows it took advantage of that. On the Blue Devils’ first possession alone, Wendell Moore Jr. and company outrebounded the Hurricanes to lead to Duke getting to take four shots before Miami even touched the basketball. That proved to be huge in allowing Duke to get itself back in the game after a slow start, and with the size mismatch inside, it’s certainly an area the Blue Devils can continue to exploit.
No more backdoor
The Hurricanes crushed the Blue Devils with their off-ball movement in the January matchup this year, particularly with their backdoor cuts. Duke shut down that avenue of offense this time around, but the Hurricanes still managed to make life difficult for Duke defenders with their guard-heavy lineup by running the floor in transition for plays like when Waardenburg fed guard Isaiah Wong the pass in transition to draw a foul on Wendell Moore Jr. and finish the layup.
Player of the half: Paolo Banchero
The Blue Devils needed a big game from their superstar, and they are getting it early on. Freshman forward Paolo Banchero came out aggressive and had three hard takes to the rim by the 13:11 mark that resulted in three made layups with the last one being an and-one. The Seattle native contributed on the defensive end too, notably stealing the ball and taking it coast to coast to lead to his and-one bucket. After a personal scoring drought of a few minutes, Banchero reannounced his presence with a forceful putback slam on an errant Williams shot. All in all, the 6-foot-10 forward finished the half with 11 points, seven rebounds and two assists in what is shaping up to be a signature performance.
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Jake Piazza is a Trinity senior and was sports editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.