Miami Hurricanes Need an Effective Bench Against Top-Ranked Duke Blue Devils
The ACC-leading Miami Hurricanes host the No. 1 Duke Blue Devils at the Bank United Center on Wednesday night. This highly anticipated matchup will end in celebration for the home team if the reserves contribute.
Unfortunately, the second unit has underachieved all year.
Rion Brown, for example, is mired in a season-long shooting slump. The Georgia native has reached double figures just once in Miami's past 15 games. After nailing nearly 40 percent of his three-point attempts last season, he's an inefficient 21.7 percent from long range in his junior year. Duke's Quinn Cook and Seth Curry will sink shots from the perimeter and the 'Canes need Brown to counter with baskets of his own.
Raphael Akpejiori, Tonye Jekiri and Erik Swoope have seen uneven playing time so far in conference play, but at least one of them will get meaningful minutes against the Blue Devils, as high-flying Mason Plumlee makes frequent trips to the free-throw line. Particularly, opposing guards wind up in foul trouble when they try to pick his pocket or stop him on the fast break.
Hurricanes head coach Jim Larranaga will probably put the aforementioned big men in action during the first half. This ensures that backcourt stars Shane Larkin and Durand Scott are available in crunch time.
Miami can keep pace with its bench players on the floor so long as they use their height to get defensive rebounds and make safe decisions on the other end.
Who will win this Jan. 23 matchup?
Though the 'Canes stunned Duke in their previous meeting, 78-74, the personnel has changed. Reggie Johnson, who scored a game-high 27 points in the overtime thriller, is sidelined with a thumb injury. Dequan Jones can't build on his efficient performance. He's busy living the dream on the NBA's Orlando Magic.
Miami's depth will be tested in front of a sellout crowd and national audience with ACC supremacy hanging in the balance.
I'll be live-tweeting throughout the game from Miami's student section.
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