Of all the stats the University of Miami men’s basketball coaching staff is poring over to prepare for Tuesday’s road game at No. 4 Duke, the one that gives them perhaps the greatest cause for concern is this one:
North Carolina State 87, Duke 75.
That was the score of Sunday’s Wolfpack upset of then-No. 2 Duke, which was one of the last three unbeaten teams in the nation heading into that game. The loss surely will give them extra motivation to beat the Hurricanes at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“We have a huge game coming up in Durham, and Duke is coming off a very tough road loss at N.C. State, so we’re sure they’ll be fired up to be back at home,” UM coach Jim Larrañaga said Monday on a teleconference. “I don’t know the last time they lost conference games back-to-back, but I’m sure it’s been a while.”
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In that loss to N.C. State, the Blue Devils (14-1, 2-1 ACC) shot 37 percent, missed 20 of 27 three-pointers and allowed the Wolfpack to connect on 10 of 16 three-point attempts.
Miami, meanwhile, is coming off a 60-56 home win Saturday against Boston College. The Canes (11-4, 1-1) were led by center Tonye Jekiri, who had 13 points and 15 rebounds. Point guard Angel Rodriguez added 17 points.
Jekiri will need another big night – probably bigger – to keep up with 6-11, 270-pound Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor, who had 23 points, 12 rebounds, three steals and three blocks against N.C. State. Jekiri, a junior, is 7 feet, 244 pounds.
The Blue Devils start three freshmen – Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow – the first time since 1983 three Duke freshmen have started 15 games in a row.
“They are such a well-balanced team,” Larrañaga said. “They have the premier low-post player in the country in Okafor, and he is surrounded by outstanding perimeter shooters who can stretch your defense. They put tremendous pressure on you defensively, and make it very tough to run any kind of offense.”
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is impressed with UM transfers Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan, calling them “ready-made stars.”
“Miami gives everybody problems because they’re extremely well-coached, and they actually end up being a veteran team because of the transfers,” he said. “Rodriguez is a terrific player and competitor, and McClellan, so you have two ready-made stars for your team. Jekiri has really developed and protects the rim so well. They have a backup of wealth and talent on the perimeter, [Deandre] Burnett, [Manu] Lecomte, [James] Palmer, [Davon] Reed, and the youngster [Omar] Sherman.”
Krzyzewski said of Rodriguez: “He is an unflappable player. He’s going to play you hard on every exchange, offensively and defensively. He has the ability to come up big in big moments. He’s a young man who can deliver, and I admire what he’s done.”
ELDER, JONES JOIN BASKETBALL TEAM
UM football players Corn Elder and D’Mauri Jones will spend the offseason with the basketball team, primarily as practice players for the scout team. Elder, a cornerback and highly-touted basketball player from Tennessee, practiced Sunday. Jones is awaiting NCAA clearance. They did not travel to Duke.
“Our first thought is to put them on the scout team,” Larrañaga said. “Beyond that I can’t tell you because honestly I haven’t seen them play. But we already have a very strong starting unit and five guys off the bench. So … it would take some unusual circumstances before either one of them would actually get into a game.”
UM men at No. 4 Duke
When: 9 p.m. Tuesday.
Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, N.C.
Records: UM 11-4 (1-1 ACC); Duke 14-1 (2-1).
TV, radio: ESPN2; WQAM (560 AM).
Noteworthy: Duke is averaging 83.8 ppg, and ranks 5th in field goal percentage (50.7). Freshman center Jahlil Okafor leads the Blue Devils with 19.2 ppg, 9.1 rpg. Duke beat UM 67-46 last season.