Although the University of Miami men’s basketball team is unranked, the Duke faithful knew better than to take Saturday night’s matchup lightly after losing four of the previous six games to the Hurricanes.
The blue-clad Crazies turned the volume and energy all the way up at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Long before tipoff, they were singing, dancing, mugging for ESPN cameras and taunting Canes players. Hanging from the rafters were five national championship banners and one that read: Mike Krzyzewski — NCAA Division 1 Most Career Victories.
None of that intimidated the Canes though. They took an early lead, forced the Blue Devils into uncharacteristically poor shooting, opened up an 11-point halftime lead and appeared to be on their way to a third win in a row over the storied home team.
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But Duke opened the second half with a 29-3 run, the Hurricanes unraveled on both ends of the floor and the Blue Devils rolled to a 70-58 victory.
UM coach Jim Larrañaga, who rarely sits down, sat on the bench, watched in disbelief and shook his head as Duke’s lead became too large to overcome. Everything that was going so right for the Canes in the first half went sour after intermission. Duke shot 67 percent in the final 20 minutes and outscored UM 45-22.
“I was trying to communicate with my coaches about what we could possibly do to change the momentum, and we just didn’t have any great ideas,” a somber Larrañaga said. “The guys must have thought we won the game at halftime.”
Most fans watching the game probably figured the same thing.
Asked when he had an idea things were falling apart, Larrañaga replied: “First play of the second half. We weren’t sharp right away. The initial possessions. We got a rebound and outletted the ball to them. We didn’t defend them. They drove to the basket and we were not there to compete at the rim. We had three points in 10 minutes. They scored 25 points off our turnovers in the second half. We just didn’t show up in the second half to compete at a high level. Tale of two halves.”
The building erupted when Frank Jackson’s fastbreak layup gave Duke a 39-37 lead, and it got even louder when Matt Jones’ three-pointer opened the Blue Devils’ lead to eight.
Miami dropped to 12-6 overall and 2-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Canes have lost four of their past five.
Freshman Bruce Brown, playing at Cameron for the first time, said: “This is a game everyone wants to play, high school players want to play at Cameron and play their best, but we came up short. They hit us in the mouth and we didn’t have an answer. Everyone’s down. We thought we had the game. But you can’t win a game playing hard only 20 minutes.”
Two years ago, the Canes came here and shocked the eventual national champions 90-74. Last season, Miami won 80-69 in Coral Gables.
And by halftime on Saturday, it seemed the Hurricanes were on their way to another victory. They led 36-25 after holding the Blue Devils to 0-for-8 shooting from three-point range and 28 percent shooting overall, while making six of their 12 threes and shooting 43.8 percent. Miami had a 25-19 edge on the boards and 8-1 in assists.
But it all came apart after halftime. The Canes had 10 costly turnovers during Duke’s run, and nothing seemed to be falling except their chins. The Blue Devils, meanwhile, made five second-half threes and got steals at critical moments.
“We just didn’t take care of the ball, allowed them to get fast-break opportunities and they were able to convert,” Davon Reed said. “They sped us up, and we couldn’t get in a rhythm. I don’t remember any game since I’ve been here where a team did that to us.”
Amile Jefferson, back in the lineup after missing two weeks with a foot injury, grabbed 12 rebounds for the Blue Devils. Jayson Tatum led Duke with 14 points, 12 coming in the second half. Jones, who was held scoreless in the first half, finished with 13. Luke Kennard added 11 and Jackson had 10.
UM was led by Reed’s 19 points. Brown had 15 and Ja’Quan Newton added 13. Kamari Murphy chipped in 15 rebounds.
Both teams were coming off losses. UM lost 96-79 at Wake Forest on Wednesday night. The Canes are back home this Wednesday against Boston College.
Duke (15-4, 3-3 ACC) rebounded after back-to-back losses to Florida State and Louisville. The Blue Devils entered Saturday’s game 2-3 in the conference, the first time since 2007 they dipped below .500 in conference play through five games.