DURHAM, N.C. -- It was louder than it sounded on TV. Much louder. So loud that Dick Vitale looked like a silent movie actor from a few yards away. So loud that University of Miami coach Jim Larranagas famous piercing whistle was muted. So loud that reporters sitting directly in front of Dukes student section had to cover their ears.
The decibel level in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday evening spoke volumes about how far the Hurricanes basketball program has come. So did the eruption of the Duke bench, and coach Mike Krzyzewskis jubilation at midcourt after the game. The No. 3 Blue Devils were downright elated to edge No. 5 Miami 79-76 in a thrilling game as electric as the atmosphere in which it was played.
UM had embarrassed then-top-ranked Duke by 27 points earlier this season in Coral Gables, and last February pulled off an overtime upset of the Blue Devils on their home court. On Saturday night, the Hurricanes never looked intimidated, weathered the rowdy crowd, and nearly pulled off another shocker.
They led by as many as seven in the first half and led by two at halftime. Trailing by two with 39 seconds left in regulation, the Hurricanes had the ball exactly where they wanted it in the trusty hands of sophomore point guard Shane Larkin, who had put up 25 points.
But Larkins pass to Rion Brown in front of the UM bench didnt go as planned. Brown bobbled it, and Duke 6-11 forward Ryan Kelly got the steal, which made sense, considering the night he was having. It was a performance Larranaga later described as quite frankly, ridiculous. Krzyzewski called it one for the ages.
Kelly hadnt played since injuring his foot Jan. 8, and it wasnt certain until game time that hed play Saturday. He wound up scoring a career-high 36 points in 32 minutes on 10-of-14 shooting. Each time he scored, the Duke fans went berserk, and their adulation grew as the night wore on. Kelly had 20 points by halftime. He provided 45.7 percent of Dukes points for the night.
The Hurricanes tried three or four different players on Kelly, and none could corral him. He made seven of nine three-point attempts, and when he wasnt drilling the Canes from outside, he was driving to his right, getting fouled, and converting his free throws.
I thought we prepared for Ryan Kelly, but obviously not for that Ryan Kelly, Larranaga said.
He was sensational from start to finish. My hat is off to him. We needed to play a little better down the stretch.
UM had two final chances to tie it up in the waning seconds, but Larkins three fell short, Durand Scott got the rebound, kicked it over to Brown in the corner, but Browns three-point shot clanked off the rim as the horn sounded. The contingent of about 100 spirited UM fans including famous football alum Warren Sapp finally lost hope.
The Cameron Crazies went into full crazy mode, wigs flying, high-fiving, and Coach K in the middle of the bedlam, raising his arms and shouting with glee.
Wow, what a game, Krzyzewski said. Theyre such a good basketball team. Larkins a great player. I think hes the best guard by far in the league. Hes magical out there. Such poise. [Kenny] Kadji, these guys are so talented. You can see why theyre leading our conference and having the spectacular year theyre having.