Duke stars' 6 for 24 shooting outing just didn't cut it

Mar. 21, 2014 @ 10:53 PM

Rather than capping their Duke careers with a memorable NCAA Tournament that propelled them to NBA careers, Blue Devils stars Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood saw their first — and perhaps only — season together end with a thud.

On combined 6 for 24 shooting, the two players who scored nearly 40 points per game all season produced just 20 for Duke on Friday and the third-seeded Blue Devils were knocked off by No. 14 seed Mercer 78-71 in the NCAA Tournament at PNC Arena.

The loss, ending No.8-ranked Duke’s season abruptly, came as the talented duo played the first NCAA Tournament game of their careers.

Both players spoke softly in Duke’s somber locker room as the shock of what had happened slowly sunk in.

“It put more pressure on ourselves than the game itself,” said Parker, the 6-8 freshman from Chicago. “We could have controlled things out on the court better.”

Hood called it a career low point.

“It’s the worst,” Hood said. “It’s the worst I ever felt. The seniors, to send them out like that, I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed.”

A first-team all-American and the national freshman of the year, Parker hit just 4 of 14 shots to score 14 points while grabbing seven rebounds. He attempted three 3-pointers, missing them all.

Hood, the second-team all-ACC pick, was worse. He hit only 2 of 10 shots — both 3-pointers. He missed all five of his 2-point attempts.

Amazingly, Hood and Parker combined for more turnovers (seven) than made field goals (six).

“It’s obvious that those two kids did not have good games today,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “But they’ve been great players for us. And for us to win they have to have good games.

Now, that just happens. It happened and it happened at a time where when they have it, then it’s over, and that’s the you know, that’s sad for us. You know, it’s sad for them.”

Mercer’s defense, which clogged the lane and eliminated any room for Parker and Hood to maneuver inside, was a major cause for their poor games. Daniel Coursey, Mercer’s 6-10 senior center, stymied them on defense while tormenting Duke with 17 points of his own.

“They’re men,” Krzyzewski said of the Bears. “They’re strong. They’re the tournament sometimes places you in a position where you have a younger team than the team you’re playing against. Not just younger in age, but in physical maturity. They’re a strong team.”

Despite their poor NCAA Tournament showings, Parker and Hood are projected as first-round picks in this summer’s NBA Draft. The next logical question after getting their opinions of the loss to Mercer was what their future plans are.

“I don’t know,” Parker said. “Me and coach will talk about it. But I don’t know right now.”

Parker added that Friday’s loss left his Duke career incomplete and that it would be a factor in his decision-making process.

“I have no idea,” Hood said. “I thought I’d be playing after today, so I don’t know.”

Regardless of their future plans, Krzyzewski simply hated to see their season end in such sad fashion.

“I feel badly for them because they’ve been two outstanding players for us, but they’re 6 for 24 in the game,” Krzyzewski said. “ We’re not going to win a lot of games where those kids are like that and we’ve won a lot of games where they’ve been terrific and I’ve loved coaching them and I feel bad for them, because you have, we all have, to live with that.”