No. 18 Duke banking on rest vs. Miami (Jan 21, 2017)

DURHAM, N.C. — Maybe a week off will have been good for No. 18 Duke.

The Blue Devils, who have been in the spotlight during the past month despite a decline in the national rankings, are back in action for Saturday night’s game against visiting Miami.

Duke had a week between games and that’s valuable time, interim coach Jeff Capel said.

“Anytime when you have time when you can practice is a good thing, especially when we’re dealing with some of the things we’re dealing with,” he said. “Our approach has to be right.”

Capel will be in his fourth game since taking over as interim coach following Hall of Famer Mike Krzyzewski’s back surgery Jan. 6.

Since then, for all except some of the first half of the Boston College game the next day, the Blue Devils (14-4, 2-3 ACC) have played without senior forward Amile Jefferson because of his bruised foot. Though there hasn’t been an announcement about Jefferson’s availability for this weekend, he wasn’t cleared for practice at the start of the week.

Duke lost its last two games at nationally ranked Florida State and Louisville. The change of scenery could be a boost for the Blue Devils.

“We’re coming off two straight losses against two very good teams on the road in hostile environments,” Capel said. “I think we’ve done some things to get better. It hasn’t equated to wins. We have to do a lot more.”

Particularly without Jefferson, Duke is fielding a youthful lineup. Freshmen Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles had abbreviated non-conference tune-ups because of injuries, so getting them up to speed has been a process.

Now, big-time games are coming rapidly. Duke will have two games in three nights, with North Carolina State visiting Monday night.

“You have to be sharp and on top of your game every game,” Capel said. “If not, it’s going to be very difficult to win. I think the league has shown that.”

This will be Miami’s third consecutive road game after winning at Pittsburgh and losing to Wake Forest.

Miami’s 72-46 romp at Pittsburgh marked the largest road margin of victory in an ACC game since the Hurricanes joined the conference in 2004-05.

Then the 96-79 loss at Wake Forest on Wednesday night matched the most points allowed by Miami in six seasons under coach Jim Larranaga.

“We have to figure out solutions to those problems,” Larranaga said.

For the most part, the Hurricanes (12-5, 2-3) have been strong defensively. Even with the most recent game, Miami ranks second in the ACC by allowing only 61.5 points per game.

Larranaga said it’s crucial for the Hurricanes that seniors Kamari Murphy and Davon Reed have bought in defensively.

“When you have your two senior leaders, not only talking like defense is important but turning words into action, the young players believe it,” Larranaga said.

Reed is usually assigned to the opponent’s best perimeter player.

“He has really elevated his defensive game,” Larranaga said.

The Hurricanes also have a pair of freshmen in the starting lineup, so guard Bruce Brown and forward Dewan Huell will make their debuts at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

In Miami’s last visit to Duke, the Hurricanes posted a stunning blowout two seasons ago, though the Blue Devils eventually recovered and won the national championship. Miami also beat Duke last season at home.