To beat Duke, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks are going organic.
Or so says senior forward Jordan Hamilton.
”We’re well aware of Duke’s history and the prestige that
follows their program,” Hamilton said. ”But we kind of remove all
the hype surrounding it and I think that we’re able to approach it
from a more sort of organic perspective – approach it as just
Sounds good, except an opening round contest is rarely just
another game for the Blue Devils.
They’re normally blowouts.
So the 15th-seeded Mountain Hawks will have their hands full
Friday when they take on the Blue Devils at Greensboro
Duke pounded Hampton by 42 points last year in the opening
round. Arkansas-Pine Bluff lost to the Blue Devils by 29 the year
before that. Winthrop, Monmouth and Florida A&M have all
suffered 40-point losses to the Blue Devils and made quiet exits
from the tournament.
Duke, the No. 2 seed in the South, has won 14 of its last 15
opening-round games rather convincingly – by an average of 26.9
points per contest. The only hiccup came in 2007 when they stubbed
their toe against Virginia Commonwealth, 79-77.
Overall, Duke has won 25 of its last 27 first-round games under
coach Mike Krzyzewski.
But he’ll likely have to win this one without Ryan Kelly.
Krzyzewski said the 6-foot-11 forward will dress, but is not
expected to play against Lehigh as his sprained right foot he
injured in Duke’s regular-season finale is still not fully
That’s a tough break for Duke, which relies on Kelly’s outside
shot to create spacing on offense. The Blue Devils were forced to
adjust on the fly entering the ACC tournament and they looked out
of sync in a semifinal loss to Florida State.
”It’s changed some of our looks,” Duke forward Miles Plumlee
said. ”It’s not like we have put in anything too new; it’s just
different looks, focusing on different actions and getting the
floor spread even when we have two bigs in there.”
The Blue Devils lost three times this season at home and aren’t
considered as dominant as some teams Krzyzewski has brought to the
dance. But they’ve still been ranked in the top 10 all season.
That doesn’t seem to scare Lehigh coach Brett Reed, who said his
team is here for more than a cameo appearance.
The Mountain Hawks were in the NCAA tournament two years ago,
but lost to top-seeded Kansas 90-74 in the first round. Reed feels
like this time around his team has a different mindset coming
”I think our goals go far beyond just participation,” Reed
said. ”Really our goal is to be a competitor in this tournament.
We have young men who have a great deal of confidence in
themselves, have a great deal of confidence in each other, and a
great deal of confidence in our system, and ultimately the things
that we’re trying to accomplish here.
”I think that confidence really can translate into something
that makes this tournament as special as it is and the reason it
has the moniker of March Madness. Because upsets happen – anything
True. But history is just not on Lehigh’s side.
Sure there have been No. 15 seeds that have advanced in the
tournament before, but Duke is one school that has managed to
discard first-round foes like a fast food hamburger wrapper –
especially when a high seed.
”Our coaches are great at preparing us for games,” Miles
Plumlee said. ”Regardless of the opponent, we respect each and
every one – and we’re just ready to play this game.”
If Lehigh is to pull what would be a monumental upset, they’ll
need a big game from the C.J. McCollum, the nation’s fifth-leading
scorer at 21.7 points per game. He had 29 points, five assists and
three steals during in the Patriot League championship and was
named the tournament’s MVP.
”Any time you’re top-five in scoring in the country, you’re
doing a good job no matter what level you’re at,” Duke guard Seth
Curry said. ”So he’s a great scorer and he has a lot of
responsibility on that team.”
Meanwhile, the Blue Devils will be looking to regain their touch
from the outside.
They shot just 5 for 20 from 3-point range in their loss to
Florida State last week and Curry has made only nine of his last 32
attempts from behind the arc. Lehigh is limiting its opponents to
just 32.4 percent shooting on 3-pointers.
The Blue Devils would also like to recapture the chemistry they
had two years ago when they won the national championship.
”That team that won, we were brothers that year,” Plumlee
said. ”And we got to play like that this year. We got to trust one
another, bring your A game for one another. You can’t let your
teammate down in any aspect of the game. That was the best thing
they had going for them that year.
”The seniors had each other’s back and we just followed their
lead. If we play like that, we’re going to do fine.”