Turns out Miami is not a good winter destination for No. 1-ranked teams.
A few weeks after the Notre Dame football team got humiliated by Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game, the top-ranked Duke men’s basketball team was routed 90-63 on Wednesday night by the amped-up 25th-ranked University of Miami in front of a boisterous sellout crowd and a national TV audience.
“Blowout City!’’ screamed ESPN commentator Dick Vitale late in the second half. “I can’t ever remember them being beaten like this. It’s been a humiliation.’’
It was the third-worst loss ever for a No. 1 ranked team, worst since 1968, UM’s first win ever over a top-ranked team, and the 27-point losing margin was Duke’s biggest in five years. Blue Devils stars Quinn Cook, Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Tyler Thornton went 6 for 44, and the team shot a season-low 30 percent.
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The Hurricanes, displaying a swagger reminiscent of the UM football teams of the 1980s, shot 57 percent and made their second consecutive victory over Duke look easy.
They reeled off a 25-1 run in the first half and led by as many as 34 in the closing minutes. The Canes improved to 14-3, and remain atop the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 5-0 league record.
“We beat the No. 1 team in the nation, that’s big time,’’ said UM senior center Reggie Johnson, who was a surprise last-minute addition to the roster after sitting out since Dec. 18 with a broken left thumb. “The crowd willed us to this win. I’ve never seen the gym like that. Some people probably still don’t believe in us, but we believe in ourselves.’’
Durand Scott scored a season-high 25 points. Kenny Kadji added a season-high 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting. Sophomore point guard Shane Larkin, in neon green sneakers as loud as the crowd, ran the floor like a seasoned veteran, finishing with 18 points, 10 rebounds (yes, 10), and five assists. And Durham, N.C., native Julian Gamble was relentless on defense with 10 rebounds and four blocks.
“They were men, we were boys,’’ said Duke’s legendary coach Mike Kryzyzewski, whose team dropped to 16-2, 3-2 ACC. “They killed us. They’ve got some great old, fifth and sixth-year players, old guys who are really good and accustomed to playing together. Their one young guy, Larkin, played old and ran his team so well. We didn’t have an answer the whole game. Great win for them, but we did not hold up our end of the bargain.’’
The UM students chanted “Over-Rated!’’ at the start of the game. They were chanting it even louder the final three minutes of the game, and then they stormed the floor.
There were plenty of signs before tipoff that this was going to be a special night for the Hurricanes.
UM students started camping out at 10 p.m. Tuesday, determined to get a coveted seat in the often vacuous arena. They watched movies on the BankUnited Center wall. They got doughnuts delivered by UM coach Jim Larranaga, and visits from Larkin, Gamble and Rion Brown. Other than the unexpected 5 a.m. sprinklers, the kids had a blast. And the most fun was yet to come.
“We’ve been trying to get students excited about our basketball team for three or four years now, so it’s great to have this kind of excitement,’’ said senior Trevor Scales. “It feels like a real basketball school.’’
“It was crazy out there,’’ Larkin said. “I walked through the student line on Larranaga Lawn after shootaround and couldn’t believe how long those students were out there. I don’t know how you can stand outside for that long for a basketball game. It made me want to win for them.’’
Larranaga said he hoped the win would help convince people that UM is not just a football school.
“One of the challenges when we got here was to create excitement to bring larger numbers to the BankUnited Center,’’ Larranaga said. “The most important thing was getting the students involved, because they live on campus, have great access to the arena, and they create the electric environment that excites other people in the community to go. Once you get the pep band and the students, you’ve got the right foundation.’’