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DeCock: Basketball gods smile upon Duke’s Rodney Hood, a new believer

By Luke DeCock - staff columnist
ldecock@newsobserver.com
Luke has worked for The News & Observer since 2000. He covered the Carolina Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a sports columnist in August 2008. A native of Evanston, Ill., he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.
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DURHAM He has seen the light. Rodney Hood is a believer now. He accepts the awesome power of the basketball gods.

If they smote him three weeks ago, when the Duke forward thought he was fouled on what would have been the go-ahead dunk at Syracuse, they smiled upon him in Saturday’s equally anticipated rematch.

Hood slid under C.J. Fair as the Syracuse forward drove for what would have been a game-tying basket with 10.4 seconds to go. It could have been a block. It was called a charge, sending Duke on its way to a 66-60 win.

“Last time, I mean, it’s the basketball gods, I guess,” Hood said. “That’s what coach always says. I guess I’ll start believing in them too.”

While Hood was talking, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim met with the media, his cheeks and forehead still flushed red 15 minutes after he had been escorted from the Cameron court by police after a pair of technical fouls. He was utterly calm and entirely unrepentant for his reaction to the call: A sprint to midcourt, arms flailing, to jab his finger at official Tony Greene and yell, six times, “That’s (expletive).”

While the game finished without him, Boeheim watched the replay, and said afterward he thought it was a block based on the new interpretation of the rules, with Hood still moving as Fair moved toward the basket before making contact.

“I just wanted to see if I still had it in me, to get out there,” Boeheim said. “I did. I got out there pretty good. I was quick, I stayed down, I didn’t get injured. So all those things are good. It was the play, it was the game. It was the game-decider right there. I would have been happy with a no-call, let the players decide it, see what happens.”

Those players have combined for two great games this season, both coming down to a final, controversial play. Just as the first meeting lived up to its considerable hype in Syracuse’s overtime win on Feb. 1, this game cleared a bar set just as high, if not higher.

The mood outside Cameron before the game was festive to say the least. Jabari Parker and Rasheed Sulaimon, out mingling with the fans in Krzyzewskiville in the afternoon sun, put on an impromptu dunk exhibition on the basket set up in the courtyard.

Inside, the fans were in full voice and paint. Even Boeheim wandered onto the court 90 minutes before the game to soak in some of the atmosphere, taking pictures with Syracuse fans on the visiting bench.

Boeheim, after arriving early, exited early as well, with no regrets.

“And I won’t have any today or tomorrow or next week,” he said.

His departure will make the headlines, but even Boeheim admitted Duke would probably have won anyway at that point. After fading in the second half against North Carolina, the Blue Devils were the stronger team against Syracuse. And they had the basketball gods on their side this time, apparently.

“The basketball gods are the best,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “They put Rodney in the two defining plays. The dunk that was maybe a foul up there. The charge, which I think was a charge. He’s in the play both times. One turned out great for us and one didn’t turn out great.”

Krzyzewski is a longtime believer. Hood is new to the faith. While respectful of their power, he doesn’t think they’ve evened things up with him quite yet.

“We’ll see,” Hood said. “I’m going to keep praying to them, though.”

The basketball gods giveth. The basketball gods taketh away. Ask Rodney Hood.

DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947
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