Screaming fans, jazz hands, officials, a great coach......all of them be damned today.
For the first time in program history, the University of Miami basketball team entered the hallowed confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium and sent the home fans back to Kryzwewski-ville in a tiffy with a 78-74 nailbiting victory in overtime. Reggie Johnson was the catalyst, going for 27 points and 12 rebounds, and making key baskets late in the second half to help keep pace with a surging Duke squad that overcame three deficits of 16 points. It was nothing short of poetic for a kid from Winston-Salem, NC who got only one ACC scholarship offer coming out of high school.
Early, the Canes came out and did what they do well.....defend. Duke was limited to 28 points in the first half, with Miami taking a 14 point lead into the locker room. Miami really controlled the interior for a good part of the game, outrebounding the Blue Devils 48-43 and outscoring them 38-26 in the paint. The result was a ridiculous 31 three-point attempts from the Devils, making only 9 of them. Seth Curry hit 4 of 7 behind the arc and finished with 20 points.
And, folks, thats about the best help that Duke guard Austin Rivers got. Rivers finished with a team-high 23 points, and he and Curry led what was almost literally a two-man scoring charge, as Miami saw their 53-37 lead with 15 minutes left evaporate. However, Johnson had a pair of late baskets inside 3 minutes to play, and Miami was headed to overtime for the second time in a week.
Incredibly, Duke went 0-for-6 from the charity stripe in overtime, and Miami stormed ahead 75-69 on a runout layup by Durand Scott and survived a pair of last-second would-be-game-tying 3-point attempts from Duke for the win.
Meanwhile, Miami had three players with double-digit points, including Kenny Kadji, who returned from a early-week head injury to score 15 points, with FOUR three-pointers, and 8 rebounds. Scott had 11 points with 8 boards, and DeQuan Jones was a pleasant surprise with 9 points and 8 boards.
So what does this win mean? It means Miami can play with anyone in the country. It means Miami can play anywhere in the country. It means Coach Larranaga is getting the most out of the players he has, which is something I questioned out of Frank Haith, and that his players are buying into him. Miami is squarely in the NCAA tournament discussion now, without question. 14-7 is not a particularly strong record overall, but a winning record in the ACC is almost always a stepping stone to the tourney, and the Canes sit at 5-3 in the ACC. Even 8-8 with a win like this might give Miami a chance, and they still have the chance for more quality wins with UNC and two matchups with FSU looming.
The Canes showed the selection committee that they don't need the confines of their own arena to win, and that's what you have to do to both get into the tourney and succeed therein. They showed the nation that there's more than football and baseball in Coral Gables. And they exorcised their own personal demons in front of thousands of blue-clad devils.
What a great day to be a Cane.....