DURHAM -- On a night when there was a lot of attention paid to a various guards for different reasons, Duke senior Nolan Smith stood out above the rest.
Miami guards Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant are superb drivers and passers who brought slick skills to Cameron Indoor Stadium that are a credit to their New York City upbringing.
Duke freshman Kyrie Irving was the most highly regarded backcourt prospect in terms of NBA potential in the building, but he remains out with a toe injury. Although it was a shame Irving and Smith couldn’t duel with Scott and Grant, Smith carried the day in the Blue Devils’ 74-63 win.
Smith scored 13 points in the final 5 minutes, 2 seconds of the first half to turn a two-point Duke advantage into a 37-24 lead over the Hurricanes at halftime. He finished with 28 points and five assists in the ACC opener for both teams as the top-ranked Blue Devils (13-0) won their 23rd game in a row dating back to last season.
Duke led just 22-20 before Smith’s take-control outburst. Seconds after he was called for a charging foul that infuriated the home crowd, Smith drove the left side of the lane for a bank shot.
Three times in 83 seconds he sank 3-point jumpers, hitting from both wings and the top of the key. He finished off his personal surge with a driving, one-handed dunk as the Blue Devils claimed a 37-24 halftime lead.
Scott and Grant did a good job penetrating the Duke defense, but Miami couldn’t finish enough plays close to the basket. Numerous missed layups led to a 24-for-65 shooting performance from the field for Miami.
Sophomore center Reggie Johnson was the only player who wasn’t thrown off balance by Duke’s defense. He used his 6-foot-10, 303-pound frame to hurt the Blue Devils in the low post, scoring 22 points and shooting 9-for-10 from the field. But because of foul trouble, he was limited to five minutes in the first half – when he scored seven points.
For Duke, senior forward Kyle Singler complemented Smith’s play with baskets in the lane and from the perimeter, scoring 14 points. Sophomore guard Andre Dawkins posted his third-straight double-figure scoring effort with 16 points off the bench, including two big baskets late in the second half.
Despite trailing by 13 at halftime, Miami (11-4) didn’t fold on the road. The Hurricanes trailed just 56-47 after a Scott layup and had secured the ball on a Johnson rebound with 6:08 remaining.
But Johnson was called for an intentional foul after grabbing the rebound. Miles Plumlee made two free throws for the Blue Devils, and Dawkins made fallaway jumpers from the foul line for two points and from the top of the key for three more.
Duke led 63-47 with 4:37 to play, and an ACC season-opening win against what’s expected to be one of the stronger teams in the conference was assured.
Photo: Duke's Nolan Smith (2) blows past Miami center Reggie Johnson (42) in the second half to score two of his game-high 28 points. CHUCK LIDDY - firstname.lastname@example.org