What a strange game tonight at Cameron Indoor.
It finished with an outcome and score that many predicted, but the script was certainly unexpected.
Duke entered Saturday night coming off a week of rest, after falling to Louisville on the road. So this was the night for Duke to come out hot and show the college basketball world that this 2-game skid was just a minor bump for the preseason #1 team in the nation.
Instead, Davon Reed started hot from beyond the arc, Dewan Huell did work in the lane, Kamari Murphy controlled the glass and a stingy ‘Canes defense was making every possession a struggle for the Blue Devils.
Duke started just 4/19 from the field, and a 9-0 Miami spurt saw the Hurricanes take a 27-17 lead. The usual ‘Crazies’ were silent, nervous, and waiting for a moment to erupt and not getting one.
A Grayson Allen foul with 0.3 seconds sent the ‘Canes to the line, and they ended the half up 36-25.
The Canes executed everything they had planned on doing, and executed it all well; they utilized the pick-and-roll to get easy looks near the hoop, drove and dished to get Reed open looks, and held a potent Duke offense to 1 assist and 0 3-pointers in the first half.
Under Coach L, Miami entered this game 4-2 versus Duke and it appeared that the 'Canes were streaking towards improving that mark to 5-2.
And then the second half started...
Duke benched Luke Kennard, Grayson Allen and Harry Giles to start the second half (Grayson Allen had hurt his finger, but they said he was available), a bold decision from interim coach Jeff Capel taking key scoring threats out of the game for a struggling offense.
But it worked.
A Matt Jones steal and 3-pointer sparked the crowd. And all of sudden the building was bumping and there was an uneasiness to the Miami offense, turnover after turnover lead to transition buckets on the other end for Duke. Matt Jones was at the helm of a 27-3 run that all but ended the game.
23 of Duke’s first 29 points in the second half came off turnovers, and Miami was simply unable to score.
Reed finished with 19 points, Bruce Brown added 15 and Ja’Quan Newton had 13. However when it mattered most, Miami’s offense was a series of one-on-ones that resulted in contested shots or turnovers.
The ‘Canes starters combined for 15 turnovers and just 9 assists.
For Duke, Kennard had 11 points, Allen 7points, and Jayson Tatum 14 points. But the game was won by the Blue Devils’ bench which totaled 31 points between Matt Jones, Frank Jackson and Marques Bolden, shooting a combined 13/20 from the field (65%).
But what does Miami take away from this game?
It felt like Miami lost by 30 the way they played the final 20 minutes, but in reality what ended as a 12 point loss on the road against a Duke team needing a win is nothing to overreact about.
It’s rough to lose the way they did tonight, there’s no sugar coating that, and like '94 Feet With Jay Bilas’ it was just hard to watch at times. But after a dominant first half of basketball Miami fans saw the potential this team has. Do they need to deal with adversity better? No doubt.
But in the ACC this year there are many games that Miami will have against top-level competition, and if they can channel that energy and effort from the first half into a 40 minute game, then Miami will be back in the tournament and a tough out for teams that haven’t endured an ACC schedule.
Next up the Hurricanes have three straight home games against Boston College, #9 North Carolina and #10 Florida State. It’s a huge stretch in the season and I’m sure the team will happy to be back in South Florida for the next couple weeks.