Three years ago, almost to the day, University of Miami students camped outside the BankUnited Center the night before the Hurricanes played top-ranked Duke, and stormed the floor after the Canes upended the Blue Devils by 27 points. It was huge news. It was historic.
On Monday night, in front of a packed arena and a national TV audience, UM beat Duke again. This time, the score was 80-69, and while beating the storied Duke program and its iconic coach Mike Krzyzewski never feels like a ho-hum win, it has become an annual tradition since Jim Larrañaga took over as coach in 2011.
UM has won four of their past six meetings, and three were by double digits.
On Monday, there was no floor storming. The euphoric UM fans high-fived and chanted “over-rated!’’ as the clock ticked down. And there was plenty of dancing in the stands. But the win did not come as a shock.
For one thing, the 15th-ranked Hurricanes (16-3, 5-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) are nine spots ahead of the No. 24 Blue Devils (15-6, 4-4). So, on paper, Miami was supposed to win the game.
Afterwards, Krzyzewski joked that he was happy to hear UM fans chanting “Over-rated.’’
“I didn’t know we were rated,’’ Krzyzewski said, smiling.
The Duke coach said nobody should be surprised by the result.
“They’re old, experienced, extremely well-coached and deep,’’ Krzyzewski said. “They’re one of the better teams. They’re really, really good. Our guys fought like crazy, competed. We haven’t played in a game that physical all year. [Angel] Rodriguez was a great leader for them, distributing the ball, hitting big shots. … When he plays like that, he takes them to another level.’’
And then he said five words that UM fans probably never thought they’d hear from a defending NCAA champion Duke coach with his pick of McDonald’s All-Americans: “They’re better than we are.’’
Sheldon McClellan led the Hurricanes with 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Ja’Quan Newton came off the bench and made a huge impact with 15 points, five rebounds and five assists. Davon Reed seemed to make a big basket every time the game got close and finished with 14 points.
Center Tonye Jekiri surely impressed the collection of assembled NBA scouts. He made life miserable for Duke’s Marshall Plumlee while managing to stay out of foul trouble. He grabbed 10 rebounds to go with seven points, had two blocks and three textbook assists under the basket that would make any point guard jealous.
“Tonye, our playmaker,’’ Larrañaga said, smiling, after the game.
And then there was the emotional team leader, Rodriguez, who was the fired-up, I-can-do-anything Angel on this night. He had 13 points, five rebounds and 11 assists — three more assists than the entire Duke team. As a team, the Canes had 24 assists to Duke’s eight.
Freshman Brandon Ingram led Duke with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Grayson Allen added 17 points.
Miami’s maturity showed. Time and again, UM players raced up the court, stopped in their tracks, looked around and dished the ball to a more open teammate.
“The whole key to the game offensively is we had 24 assists and seven turnovers,’’ Larrañaga said. “That was fantastic. Our point guards got everyone involved and that leads to a team victory. I told the team before the game, ‘This is not about the name on the back of the jersey. It’s about the name on the front of the jersey.’ This is Miami vs. Duke, and I thought our guys really played as a team, high-energy, lots of enthusiasm.’’
Larrañaga and the players thanked the fans, and particularly the students, for showing up.
“I don’t think we’re a fluke by any means,’’ Larrañaga said. “I don’t think [Monday] was some big upset like when we played them a few years ago. We’ve been ranked in the top 15 in the country for a month now, so if you’re a top-15 team, you should expect to win no matter who you play.’’
Said Rodriguez: “I like playing the powerhouses. You always want to beat those teams and make people respect us. A lot of people don’t give us enough credit.’’
Krzyzewski certainly does.