University of Miami

Seedings, pride on line as UM hosts No.10 Duke on Saturday

Miami Hurricanes forward Kamari Murphy (21) shoots from under the basket as Clemson Tigers forward Jaron Blossomgame (5) defends as the University of Miami plays Clemson University at Watsco Center in Coral Gables on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017.
Miami Hurricanes forward Kamari Murphy (21) shoots from under the basket as Clemson Tigers forward Jaron Blossomgame (5) defends as the University of Miami plays Clemson University at Watsco Center in Coral Gables on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. adiaz@miamiherald.com

More than a month has passed since Duke went on a 29-3 second-half run as the University of Miami unraveled and watched its double-digit halftime lead disappear at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Although the Canes have won seven of their nine games since that night, they have not forgotten what it felt like to trudge off that Duke court to the deafening chants and taunts of the Cameron Crazies. On Saturday afternoon, Miami has another shot at the Blue Devils. This time, the Hurricanes say things will be different.

For one thing, the game is at home, and a packed house is expected at the Watsco Center. CBS is televising the 4 p.m. game, which always makes the UM students increase their numbers and volume. It is Senior Day, so emotions will be running high in honoring Davon Reed and Kamari Murphy.

And, maybe most motivating, there are Atlantic Coast Conference seedings at stake and Selection Sunday is just a few weeks away.

UM (19-8, 9-6 ACC) trails Duke (22-6, 10-5) by just a single game in the conference standings.

The Blue Devils’ loss to Syracuse on Wednesday night created a four-way tie for second place behind North Carolina between Duke, Louisville, Florida State and Notre Dame. UM has games against Duke and FSU remaining, so the Canes could earn a top-four seed and a double-bye in the ACC tournament if they manage to win both of those games.

“I told my team we’re one game out of second and one game out of 10th,” UM coach Jim Larrañaga said. “The league is very deep and talented, teams are similar.”

Duke had won seven in a row before the Syracuse loss. UM is coming off a road win over Virginia and has won three consecutive games without starting point guard Ja’Quan Newton, who was suspended but makes his return on Saturday — although he will not start, Larrañaga said.

Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski was recovering from back surgery and didn’t attend the Jan. 21 game against Miami. But he will be on the bench Saturday and expects a highly motivated UM team.

“During this time, you’re going to face teams that just inherently should be hungrier than you, and then you have to try to be as hungry. That’s a challenge,” Krzyzewski said.

Two Hurricanes who will be especially fired up are seniors Reed and Murphy, both of whom have many family members and friends flying in for the game.

“It’s a bittersweet feeling,” said Reed, who is also among the top scholars in the ACC. “People have been reminding me all week that it’s my last home game, so it will definitely be an emotional day for me.”

Larrañaga heaped praise on Reed, whom he called “a role model for what a college athlete should be.”

The coach named Reed a co-captain as a sophomore, something he said he had never done.

Murphy said he tends to keep his emotions in check and isn’t feeling pressure to “do something extraordinary just because it’s my last home game.” But he reflected on his time at UM, said he has “become a better man off the court” and gave the credit to Larrañaga.

“He’s the GOAT [Greatest Of All-Time] for me,” Murphy said.

UM men vs. No. 10 Duke

When: Saturday, 4 p.m.

Where: Watsco Center, UM campus

Records: UM (19-8, 9-6 ACC), Duke (22-6, 10-5 ACC)

TV/Radio: CBS/ 560-WQAM

Scouting Report: The Canes have won seven of nine games since losing at Duke Jan. 21, including victories over then-No. 9 North Carolina and No. 18 Virginia. The Blue Devils have won eight of their last nine games and are playing very well since Coach Mike Krzyzewski returned from back surgery. Duke freshman Jayson Tatum has come on strong. Davon Reed and Kamari Murphy will be honored on UM Senior Day. Miami point guard Ja’Quan Newton returns to action after a three-game suspension, but will not start.

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