In their history, the Hurricanes were only 3-15 against Duke. In their history, the Hurricanes were 0-6 against teams ranked No. 1 in the country. In their history, the Hurricanes had never started off undefeated through five conference games.
On Wednesday night, the Hurricanes had no regard for history. With a sold-out crowd of 7,972 on hand for a visit from the top-ranked Blue Devils, Miami put on its most inspired performance of the season. The Canes dominated from the start, overwhelming Duke 90-63 in the biggest regular season game in recent memory.
“Our guys were very well prepared tonight,” head coach Jim Larranaga said. “We had a week between Boston College and tonight, and we needed it, first to give our guys some needed rest because we were a little bit beat up. It also gave us a chance to prepare the way we needed to play tonight, defensively and offensively.”
There was a noticeable buzz on campus as students camped outside the BankUnited Center the day before the game, and there were big expectations for a Miami team that cracked the top 25 for the first time since 2010 this past week.
Defense dominated the first 10 minutes of the opening half, with both teams keeping the score within one possession either way. That is, until a 3-point shot from senior guard Durand Scott opened the floodgates.
The Hurricanes took a 16-14 lead and never looked back, riding a 25-1 scoring run that made the halftime score an overwhelming 42-19 in Miami’s favor.
“Not much to say after that. Men and boys. They were men, we were boys,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We expected them to be terrific, and we have to match terrific and then have a terrific game. What you had was a terrific win for Miami, but not a terrific game. We didn’t hold our end of the bargain.”
Senior center Reggie Johnson was not expected to play, as he continues to recover from a broken thumb suffered in December. But Johnson surprised everyone in the arena, dressing and participating in team drills beforehand. Just moments before tipoff, it was announced he would play.
Johnson checked in a few minutes into the first half as the home crowd erupted in cheer for their veteran leader. He finished with two points and five rebounds in 16 minutes.
“He called me this morning and was basically jumping through the phone,” Larranaga said. “He was so excited to tell me that the doctors had cleared him to play. Quite honestly, I didn’t think he was going to be ready until sometime in February.”
Two other Miami seniors, Durand Scott and Kenny Kadji, led the scoring for the Hurricanes with 25 and 22 points, respectively. As a team Miami shot 56.9 percent from the floor, including nine 3-point shots. Defensively, the Canes limited
Duke to 29.7 percent shooting, including just 19 points in the first half.
Sixth-year senior Julian Gamble also had a big game, contributing 10 rebounds in 24 minutes. Miami gained a 49-41 total rebounding advantage over Duke.
The Blue Devils started the second half looking to cut the deficit, scoring 10 points in the first four minutes to spark a brief run. But on this particular night, Miami’s offense would not be denied.
A deep 3-pointer by Shane Larkin extended Miami’s lead to 30 with just over 12 minutes remaining. The sophomore guard finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds in 36 minutes.
“Some teams come out in the second half flat and think they have the game won, but we stayed with the same energy in the second half,” he said. “We played great the whole game.”
Larkin appreciated the hundreds of fans who spent hours in line.
“I don’t know how you can sit outside for a basketball game for that long,” he said. “That made me want to win for them even more.”
Miami will look to extend its unbeaten conference record as they take on Florida State at the BankUnited Center on Sunday night. The game is slated for a 6 p.m. start.
Despite the historic win, the Canes say they’ll be ready when the Seminoles come into town.
“Coach is going to make sure of that. That was the first thing he said in the locker room,” Johnson said. “He said enjoy the night. Friday, Saturday and Sunday be ready to get work in. I think we’re ready for that. It’s a big-time win for us, but we stay humble.”