Duke knew it was going to face Michigan this season. It probably didn’t think it would be sooner than expected.
After beating its first Top-10 opponent in almost three years, the upstart Wolverines look to pull off a second straight upset when they face the 10th-ranked Blue Devils on Friday night at Madison Square Garden in the championship game of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer.
The teams are scheduled to meet again on Dec. 6 in Ann Arbor.
In the first major upset of the season, Michigan (3-0) beat No. 4 UCLA 55-52 in Thursday’s semifinal. It snapped the Wolverines 12-game losing streak against ranked opponents, and was their first victory in 12 games over a Top 25 team since beating then-No. 8 Illinois on Feb. 21, 2006.
“It’s a significant measuring stick for us,” said Michigan coach John Beilein, who suffered through a 10-22 season in his first guiding the Wolverines in 2007-08. “Early season wins are terrific, but you have to put them in perspective.”
The Wolverines now try to avoid a seventh consecutive loss to Duke (4-0), which beat Southern Illinois 83-58 in Thursday’s other semifinal. The Blue Devils won 95-67 over Michigan on Dec. 8 at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the first meeting between the schools since 2002.
Michigan’s last victory over Duke came when Robert “Tractor” Traylor and Louis Bullock stunned the then-No. 1 visiting Blue Devils 81-73 on Dec. 13, 1997.
The Wolverines’ aggressive 1-3-1 zone stymied the Bruins, who shot 42.0 percent and committed 17 turnovers. Michigan won despite shooting 5-for-20 from 3-point range and being outrebounded 38-25.
With his team trailing 48-46 with 4:16 left, freshman guard Stu Douglass hit a long 3-pointer to give Michigan the lead for good. After UCLA cut the lead to one with five seconds to go, Manny Harris hit two free throws and blocked Darren Collison’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer.
“It’s the biggest win I’ve had at Michigan,” said forward DeShawn Sims, who scored 18 points off the bench. “This team is rebuilding and it’s not going to stop.”
Harris added 15 with five rebounds, four assists and three steals, while Douglass finished with 10 points.
A second-team All-Big Ten pick last season as a freshman, Harris wasn’t as dominating as he was in the Wolverines’ first two games, but is averaging 23.6 points. He was held to eight with five turnovers in last season’s loss to Duke as Sims had 12 points and Michigan shot 37.9 percent.
While UCLA only returns two starters from a team which reached the national semifinals for a third consecutive season, Duke features a deep, balanced lineup that shook off a poor first half to pull away from Southern Illinois.
Though Gerald Henderson scored 20 points on 5-for-10 shooting with four 3-pointers, Duke went nearly seven minutes without a field goal in the first half before going on a 13-3 run to take a six-point lead at the break.
“We were really bad on offense in the first half. We had (15) turnovers and they weren’t pressing us,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose team overcame an early 12-point deficit in a tough 82-79 win over Rhode Island in its previous contest. “You have to keep your composure.”
Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler each added 13 points for the Blue Devils on Thursday. Singler, a sophomore, is averaging a team-best 18.0 points, while Scheyer was one of five players in double figures against Michigan last season.