Duke's fast start proves too much for two Michigan rallies

Eugene Tanner/AP
Senior guard Zack Novak and the Wolverines mounted a pair of comebacks on Tuesday, but fell short against Kansas. Buy this photo

By Daniel Wasserman, Daily Sports Editor
Published November 22, 2011

LAHAINA, Hawaii — Mike Krzyzewski and his record-breaking 903rd win has been the nation’s biggest college basketball story early this season, but in Maui, the talk has surrounded around his losses — or lack thereof.

Of the Duke men's basketball coach's 283 losses, none have come in his previous four Maui Invitational appearances. And just moments after tipoff, it became evident that Michigan wouldn’t give him his first.

Despite two furious second-half Michigan rallies — with freshman point guard Trey Burke taking over the game each time — the Wolverines (4-1) failed to pull their deficits within five, falling 82-75.

“It mirrored a little bit of our game last year in the NCAA Tournament, where they got off to a quick start with us,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “We were chasing them the whole time and they’re not a great team to chase. They really know how to control the ball.”

Burke followed up an impressive showing against Memphis with 17 points and eight assists against the Blue Devils.

Just two and a half minutes into the game, starting sophomore forward Evan Smotrycz was already bench-ridden after picking up two early fouls, and Duke took a commanding 9-0 lead less than four minutes into the game.

“I thought the way we defended was probably a little different than what they would have expected,” Krzyzewski said. “(Beilein) had counters, but to start off with, it’s something they haven’t seen.”

Redshirt sophomore forward Jordan Morgan finally put the Wolverines on the board four minutes in with an electrifying transition dunk, sparking a 9-0 Michigan run that drew the Wolverines within two.

But the Blue Devils (6-0) proved to be too much to handle.

Despite forcing eight first-half turnovers, Michigan entered halftime trailing 34-22, thanks largely to sophomore guard Tim Hardaway Jr.’s absence. Hardaway shot 0-for-6 — including two open 3-pointers towards the end of the half — and was held scoreless in the first stanza.

The Wolverines shot just 2-for-10 from behind the arc in the first half.

The beginning of the second half was all about Burke and his matchup with last year’s heralded high school recruit, point guard Austin Rivers.

Seconds after the half started, Burke penetrated the Blue Devil defense and found a wide-open Morgan for a layup. Moments later, Smotrycz corralled a defensive rebound and took the ball coast to coast for a layup, forcing Duke to call a timeout.

After a Blue Devil 3-pointer, Burke again drove through the paint, collapsing the Duke big men, and found Morgan for a dunk. Hardaway then blocked back-to-back 3-point attempts, leading to a Burke layup and a 3-pointer of his own — his first points.

In the next four minutes, the Burke-Rivers show really got going. Rivers scored eight points, including two 3-pointers, while Burke added five points, a steal and an assist to Novak, whose 3-pointer cut the Blue Devil’s lead to six.

Burke came through with another steal and dish to Novak, but the senior couldn’t knock down the 3-pointer and Duke stayed hot from 3-point land, converting on 11-of-22 of its shots from deep.

“Their perimeter played very, very well,” Beilein said. “I’ll have to watch film again to see how much of that was us and how much of that was Duke, but I assume a lot of it was Duke.”

Rivers and guard Seth Curry each scored a game-high 20 points. Curry shot 7-for-8 and made all four of his 3-pointers.

“We hit some amazing three's, but they were good shots,” Krzyzewski said. “We attacked their 1-3-1 (zone defense) well.

“That’s a weapon for us. … I think it’s difficult for somebody to play zone against us, because the three guys that we start on the perimeter can all shoot.”

Michigan’s 75 points are a season high and its 53 second-half points almost matched the 61 points per game the Wolverines averaged before coming to Maui.

“I like the way our kids adjusted in the second half, offense wasn’t the problem” Beilein said. “Duke came out with a great plan and that’s a little bit of why (Krzyzewski) has 900-some wins.

“Obviously, there’s not a kid here that didn’t want to win or didn’t think we could’ve won that game if we played a little better.”