No. 1 Duke limps into meeting with No. 21 Rhode Island
Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley said he thinks his brother, former Duke guard Bobby Hurley, will root for the Rams against the No. 1 Blue Devils when the teams meet in the final of the Naismith Hall of Fame Tipoff in Uncasville, Conn., on Sunday.
“That's a tough one. I mean, blood over Duke's family, Hurley's family — I think he's with me though, because he talks to me more than K,” Dan Hurley told ESPN after his No. 21 team survived “an NCAA tournament game” against No. 24 Cincinnati in the semifinal nightcap Saturday.
Bobby Hurley, a point guard who helped Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski to back-to-back NCAA titles, is the coach at Arizona State. He won't be at the Mohegan Sun Casino Arena on Sunday, but the Hurley brothers dad, noted high school coach Bob Hurley Sr. is there watching Dan and his 4-0 Rams, who face Krzyzewski and his battered Blue Devils for the tournament crown.
Once again, Rhode Island will have the crowd at its back — these games being played 37 miles from its Kingston campus. The Rams face a Duke team (3-1) that came to Connecticut shorthanded and suffered more problems in Saturday's victory over Penn State.
“We're banged up more than any team I've ever coached,” Krzyzewski said after “a hell of win” over Penn State that saw Chase Jeter go down with an ankle injury while Grayson Allen hobbled around on a bad toe.
“Before the game and then during the game … I mean, Amile (Jefferson) has been hurt this week, he has 15 rebounds and 16 points. Matt (Jones, 15 points) plays the last two ball games in the second half with four fouls. The veteran play of those two kids really saved us.”
Duke, which will likely fall out of the top spot in the poll because of a loss to Kansas on Tuesday, has three freshmen who haven't even played yet because of injury.
The three freshman won't play Sunday, Allen should and Jeter might as Krzyzewski tries for his 19th in-season title.
Rhode Island had to overcome some adversity Saturday as well, losing point guard Jarvis Garrett to what looked like a scary injury in the first half.
Garrett, hustling for a rebound, fell over the end line and appeared to hit his head on the knee of a cameraman. He was down for several minutes, got up on his feet but was taken from the court, his neck in a brace on a stretcher and sent to a hospital for evaluation.
Players from both teams wished Garrett well as he was wheeled away, with the Rhode Island bench emptying to wish their teammate well — and Garrett was able to text his coach from the hospital.
“He's getting tests done. He has some type of neck injury,” Hurley said. “No idea in terms of a timetable or as to the severity of it.
“I thought our guys' love for him and love for each other as brothers caused them to rise to the level and want it even more.”
Asked about reacting to losing a key player, Hurley pointed to a pair of in-season tournament blowouts his team suffered the past two years, against Maryland and Kansas.
“Not this year. We're fully loaded,” he said.
He said he thought Saturday was a sign. “That the hype about our teams was probably real; based on the way we've grown, with our young players, and the adversity of last year. Cincinnati's a heck of a team, probably underrated.”
Saturday, the Rams missed their first nine 3-pointers before hitting eight of their last 12 with E.C. Matthews nailing a 3 from the right corner off a late out-of-bounds play.
And now they get Duke.
Special for the coach?
“I was coaching high school games seven years ago and driving vans around … now we're nationally ranked and playing Duke (Sunday) for a championship,” Hurley said, calling Duke “the premier program in the country that embodies everything you want in a college program. It kind of means a lot.”