PHILADELPHIA -- This was the hardest game of Bobby Hurley's season, and it had little to do with the fact that Seton Hall -- a tough, punishing defensive team -- was Duke's next obstacle on the road to yet another Final Four.
No, this was the game Hurley had dreaded all week -- the contest in which Duke's gritty floor leader knew at one point he'd be going one-on-one against his younger brother Danny, the Pirates' freshman backup point guard.
In all, they played 18 minutes against each other, and Bobby Hurley's Blue Devils got the better of Danny Hurley's Pirates, 81-69, in last night's NCAA East Regional semifinal at The Spectrum. But it had to rank among the longest 18 minutes in the life of Bobby Hurley, two years Danny's senior.
"When my brother was out there, it was a weird situation," Bobby Hurley said. "It was real distracting.
"It was the hardest thing I had to do this year. My whole game is concentration and intensity. Running the team was hard for me with my concentration and intensity not up to the level where it usually is."
It showed in the statistics. Hurley shot 2-for-7 from the field and scored just four points, less than one-third of his average of 12.9. He turned the ball over six times, tying his season-high and doubling his season average.
"It was a rough situation for both of us," said Danny Hurley, who didn't score. "Especially him. He was a little tentative. He didn't want to press. He could have easily scored 30 if he was taking his shots instead of dishing to the guys under the basket."
Indeed, Bobby did dish out seven assists, to become the career leader in that department in NCAA tournament play. Hurley finished the night with 108 assists, topping the old mark of 106 by Sherman Douglas of Syracuse.
The Hurleys, graduates of St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, N.J., had familiar faces all around them on the court. Seton Hall's Jerry Walker and Terry Dehere also graduated from St. Anthony, in Bobby's class.
Despite the fact that neither brother was comfortable with the situation, it didn't stop them from having some fun. The only points brother scored against brother came in the first half, when Bobby made a jumper from the free-throw line with 8:07 to play.
"I went one-on-one against him and made the basket," Bobby said. "I said, 'Gotcha.' But it went back and forth. Danny once told me how he shook me a little on a crossover move."
Said Danny: "He did most of the talking. Usually I'm the immature one, but he said most of what we said."
Just like on the playground, on which the two brothers battled time and again, always intensely, sometimes with blood spilled. But this was no cold winter's day in their hometown of Jersey City.
This was a regional semifinal, the Sweet 16. Duke is trying to repeat as national champion. Seton Hall was trying to salvage the pride of the Big East as the mega-conference's last representative in the NCAAs. This also was a sellout crowd and a national television audience.
"There's a big difference between this and the playground," Bobby Hurley said. "On the playground, you can go after each other as hard as you want and joke around, and it doesn't matter. But this is the Sweet 16, national TV. I was aware of it most when he was guarding me."
It also was difficult for Danny Hurley, whose 18 minutes of playing time was the most he had had in the last 19 games.
"Go into all the NCAA games, you say to yourself, 'I'm going to go out and kill this guy,' " he said. "You can't do that in this case. There isn't the same intensity."
Even though his numbers may have been down, Bobby Hurley was big at money time, according to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
"Bobby made four great plays in transition at crucial times," the coach said. "He had a lot of distractions. It was a difficult game for him to play. I don't think he expected Danny to play so much. I'm sure he'll play better on Saturday."
There will be a Saturday for Bobby Hurley -- the regional championship game tomorrow against Kentucky.
There won't be one for Danny Hurley, but that doesn't mean he won't be in front of the television -- or possibly at The Spectrum -- cheering his brother's chances for a third straight trip to the Final Four.
"I saw him glancing at me a couple of times and knew his head wasn't totally into the game," Danny Hurley said. "But he did what he had to do to get his team to win."