GREENSBORO, N.C.—Playing for the right to compete in Saturday’s ACC tournament championship game, No. 4-seed Duke and No. 1-seed Miami are neck and neck with one another through 20 minutes at Greensboro Coliseum. The Blue Devils have a slight 41-36 advantage entering the locker room.
The opening minutes of Friday’s semifinal were hampered by an injury to one of Miami’s top players. Less than two minutes in, third-year forward Norchad Omier, a recent All-ACC selection after finishing third in the conference in rebounds per game, went up to grab a missed free throw by Mark Mitchell and came down holding his right ankle. He was helped off the floor and to the locker room, and shortly after, the Hurricanes ruled the star big man out for the remainder of the game.
Just like that, the chemistry of the game changed for both sides. Miami is one of just five teams to outrebound the Blue Devils this season (38-31 in February), but without their best man on the glass, the Hurricanes still nearly managed to keep pace with their opponent, tallying 11 rebounds to Duke’s 16.
Familiarity breeds contempt
Four teams remain in the ACC tournament, and Duke has lost to each of the three other teams exactly once. Its loss to the Hurricanes came on the road Feb. 6, when a trip to Miami on short rest went wrong and resulted in an 81-59 Blue Devil loss. Before that, though, Duke took the first matchup in Durham, holding on for a 68-66 win at Cameron Indoor Stadium.In that sense, Friday’s grudge match already had somewhat of a rivalry feel to it coming in; the game is also a rematch of last year’s conference semifinal. “Since we got one and they got one, we got to settle this,” Duke center Dereck Lively II said after Thursday’s quarterfinal win. “It's almost a rivalry at a point.”No one will mistake Duke and Miami for historic rivals, but there was a certain animosity in the air throughout what was a tight first half. The opening sequence was physical, with Roach drawing a flagrant foul against ACC Player of the Year Isaiah Wong, and it took some extra time for both sides to settle in on offense.
When Duke star and ACC Rookie of the Year Kyle Filipowski went down in the first few minutes of his team’s runaway Thursday win, there was plenty of reason for concern on the Blue Devil bench. But Filipowski returned before the midway point of the first half, eventually dropping 22 points in just 15 minutes.Filipowski said he would be good to go in the locker room following Thursday’s win, but the strength and apparent comfortability he displayed moving around in the frontcourt throughout the opening 20 minutes must be a promising sign for head coach Jon Scheyer. Filipowski finished the half with six points and three rebounds.
While both offenses started off slowly Friday evening, the scoring ramped up late in the period — especially from beyond the arc. Duke and Miami finished the half with respective marks of 4-of-6 and 5-of-12 from 3-point land, with Blue Devil freshman Tyrese Proctor and Hurricane sophomore Bensley Joseph both contributing 2-of-2 lines from deep.Duke, for context, made 11-of-26 3-point attempts in Thursday’s win. It is not shooting at nearly the same volume, but the early returns are another promising sign for Scheyer to chew on heading into the break.
Player of the half: Tyrese Proctor
Proctor picked up right where he left off after his 10-assist double-double Thursday, beating the double team on the first possession to find a streaking Lively entering the paint. As the Blue Devils took time to solve the Hurricanes’ defense — their scoring picked up as the half went on — the Australian freshman kept his team in the race, connecting on his first two 3-point attempts and doing an admirable job defensively against Wong. The Miami star did collect eight points before halftime, but Proctor made his impact felt early and often, tying for the team lead in scoring with eight points and three assists.
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Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.