No. 1 Duke embarrassed in rout at Miami
CORAL GABLES, Fla. — It's rarely big news when the nation's No. 1 college basketball team plays a one-sided game. But it always is when the top-ranked team gets slapped silly.
On Wednesday night, Duke was shockingly on the receiving end.
The 25th-ranked Miami Hurricanes, invigorated by the return of center Reggie Johnson, opened a 23-point halftime lead en route to a 90-63 demolition of the Blue Devils at the BankUnited Center.
It was the third-worst loss by a No. 1 team in history, and the second time in two weeks that a top-ranked Duke team lost to a ranked ACC team on the road.
"There's not much to say after that – men and boys," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "They were men, we were boys for 40 minutes. The score and the performance reflected that disparity."
What made for an amazing and exhilarating evening for Miami (14-3, 5-0) proved to be an embarrassing and humiliating one for Duke. The Hurricanes' biggest lead was 34 during garbage time with 1:40 to go. More impressive, Duke's smallest deficit in second half was 24 points — 24 points!
Time will tell if the game marked the night Miami basketball truly arrived. At the very least, it was the first time a group of Hurricanes defeated the nation's No. 1 team in seven tries. The Canes' sixth straight victory happened before the 10th sellout in the on-campus arena's 10 years.
"It wasn't easy, but we did it," said Johnson, who had been out since breaking his thumb before a late-December holiday tournament in Hawaii.
"People were saying, 'Upset! Upset!' I don't believe in upsets. I feel like we've got to come and play, and they've got to come and play — may the best team win."
The teams battled closely at the start before the Hurricanes went on a 25-1 run with 9:42 left in the first half – 25-1!
"I've coached over a thousand games. I'm sure I've been hit by worse runs than that when I was at Army or at Duke and we weren't winning," Krzyzewski said after the Blue Devils' most lopsided loss in a regular-season game since January 1984. "In this game, you can be hit with everything and you have to be able to hit back."
One key factor in the outcome was Duke starters Quinn Cook (1-of-12), Seth Curry (0-10) and Mason Plumlee (5-15) combining for 6-of-37 shooting.
"That's something I haven't seen before," Krzyzewski said.
There also were the stories of the two Stretch 4s — aka forwards who can step out and shoot the J. Duke's Ryan Kelly missed his third straight game with a foot injury (as Duke fell to 1-2 without him) while Miami's Kenny Kadji likely earned increased NBA attention with 22 points, six rebounds and two blocks.
Then there was Johnson's return. The senior center, the star in last year's win at Cameron Indoor Stadium, telephoned his coach earlier in the day to say the doctors had cleared him to play.
"Quite honestly, I didn't think he was going to be back until sometime in February," coach Jim Larranaga said. "He hadn't practiced one time since Dec. 20. Not once!"
Johnson entered the game to chants of "Reg-gie!" just 5:43 into the game. His presence became an emotional lift more than a productive one as he produced two points and five rebounds in 16 minutes.
As a native New Yorker, Larranaga said the thought of Willis Reed and his dramatic return to the New York Knicks in 1970 came to mind before the game.
"I asked Reggie, ‘Do you want to announce it?' and he said, ‘No, no, no — we'll wait for the most dramatic time to make the announcement'," Larranaga said. "I was cool with that."
Larranaga also was cool with the fan support. Students, taking a page from Duke's "Krzyzewskiville," camped out in an area they termed "Larranaga's Lawn." The coach and his wife supplied the group with 300 doughnuts before the game.
Miami's performance, also fueled by veteran guards Shane Larkin (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Durand Scott (25 points), gave indication the Hurricanes will be a serious threat in March. The Canes, who this week entered the national rankings for the first time in three years, are a disciplined, well-rounded, veteran team.
The Blue Devils (16-2, 3-2) will regain Kelly in a week or two, and likely will perform a lot better than they did Wednesday night and in their 84-76 loss at North Carolina St. on Jan. 12.
"Look, this wasn't for a championship," Krzyzewski said. "This is a heck of a game. We should be ready to play. They won. They killed us. I've done this for a long time. Do you think we're not going to try to show up the next time?"
Duke will get a chance for revenge in Durham on March 2.