The Miami Hurricanes beat the Duke Blue Devils in men's basketball Monday, and it wasn't an upset. Welcome to the new normal in the ACC.
Miami defended its home court with an 80-69 victory over the suddenly reeling Blue Devils. Angel Rodriguez spearheaded the effort with 13 points, 11 assists and five rebounds, while Sheldon McClellan poured in 21 points alongside his backcourt mate.
As for Duke, Brandon Ingram posted a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, but it was far from enough. The No. 24 Blue Devils are now a middling 4-4 in the conference after dropping their fourth game in five tries, while the No. 15 Hurricanes are 5-2 in the ACC and within striking distance of the 7-0 North Carolina Tar Heels.
Matt Norlander of CBS Sports recognized Duke is off to one of its worst starts in recent history:
With an L here, Duke will cement its worst start thru 8 games to an ACC campaign since the infamous 1995-96 season, when it finished 18-13.— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) January 26, 2016
ESPN Stats & Info pointed out the defending champions are in danger of dropping out of the polls for the first time in years:
Most Consecutive Weeks in AP Top 25 Longest Active Streaks Duke 167 (ranked 24th) Kansas 135 (4th)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 26, 2016
Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated had a bigger concern for the Blue Devils:
It is time to acknowledge the possibility that Duke will not make the NCAA tournament. They need Jefferson back lickety split.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) January 26, 2016
Miami established quick control of Monday's contest and took a 35-31 halftime lead into the locker room. Laura Keeley of the Raleigh News & Observer noted head coach Mike Krzyzewski was leaning on some zone defense in an attempt to snap his team's recent struggles:
I don't think Duke played even a single possession of man-to-man that half— Laura Keeley (@laurakeeley) January 26, 2016
While the Hurricanes were the better team in the first half, Ingram kept the Blue Devils close with his scoring and rebounding, which impressed Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune:
Brandon Ingram has improved a ton since the beginning of the year. I'm beginning to see what everyone loves— Tony Jones (@Tjonessltrib) January 26, 2016
Miami went on a run in the middle portion of the second half to build a double-digit lead, and ESPN College Basketball passed along some of the more entertaining highlights for the home fans:
Miami is out there trying to tear down rims. 💪🏼 https://t.co/OQkuIv63jJ— ESPN College BBall (@ESPNCBB) January 26, 2016
The Hurricanes were doing plenty on offense, but Duke struggled to get anything significant going against Miami's stifling defense, falling behind by 12 with less than 10 minutes remaining. Keeley pointed out Duke's shooting troubles:
Just as shooting 70 percent in a half will win you a lot of games, shooting less than 30 percent will lose a lot of them, too. Miami 53-41— Laura Keeley (@laurakeeley) January 26, 2016
It looked as though Miami was going to cruise to the victory, but Duke closed the gap to five points with just over five minutes left thanks to strong interior play from Marshall Plumlee and timely shooting from Derryck Thornton. However, Miami answered back with a Davon Reed jumper and a pretty pass from Rodriguez to set up a McClellan dunk.
Rob Dauster of College Basketball Talk praised Rodriguez for his control of the game Monday:
11 points, eight dimes, 1 turnover. Good Angel makes Miami really dangerous. https://t.co/tBpDfRh3Ih— Rob Dauster (@RobDauster) January 26, 2016
Dauster also commented on the Duke defense:
Eventually Duke is going to have to get out of this zone, right? It's been totally ineffective for the most part.— Rob Dauster (@RobDauster) January 26, 2016
After that mini-spurt from the home team, the Blue Devils never threatened. They cut the deficit to 73-67 with just more than a minute remaining, but the Hurricanes converted on critical free throws to clinch the win. Dana O'Neil of ESPN.com questioned the celebration from the Miami fans, though:
Miami fans chanting overrated at Duke. Um, the Hurricanes are ranked ahead of the Blue Devils. By nine spots— Dana O'Neil (@ESPNDanaOneil) January 26, 2016
ESPN's Jeff Goodman put the Blue Devils' efforts without the injured Amile Jefferson (foot) into perspective:
Duke is a Top 50’ish team without Amile Jefferson, but if he gets back healthy by mid-February, could still be dangerous come March.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) January 26, 2016
With Jefferson relegated to a spectator role, Miami finished the 80-69 victory.
In need of a winning streak, Duke will play two unranked foes in Georgia Tech and North Carolina State after Monday's loss. However, the Blue Devils will then face a brutal four-game swing against No. 16 Louisville, No. 11 Virginia, No. 2 North Carolina and Louisville again.
Krzyzewski's squad will be more formidable when Jefferson returns, but that is a daunting stretch for even the best teams in the nation. Expect more losses for the defending champions before March, which will impact their NCAA tournament prospects on Selection Sunday.
As Davis noted, it may even cost Duke a chance at earning a spot in the tournament altogether.
As for Miami, it will travel to North Carolina State and then face No. 25 Notre Dame before four consecutive contests against unranked foes. If the Hurricanes take care of business in that stretch, they will have an opportunity to challenge for the ACC crown during a four-game run against North Carolina, Virginia, Louisville and Notre Dame.
Krzyzewski put things in perspective following the loss, per Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press: “I'm glad the (Miami) students were yelling overrated. I didn't know we were rated. So thank you.”
The Duke coach also addressed why he elected to play zone defense and said it was to “limit fouls and help compensate for tired,” per Keeley.
That zone didn’t work, and Krzyzewski said “it works great against our walk-ons,” when asked how he put the zone in during practices with injury concerns, per Keeley.
Coach K also called Miami one of the best teams in the country, but Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga said, “I’ll let you know at the end of the year,” when asked if he agreed with that notion, per Reynolds.
The presence of Rodriguez in the backcourt is one reason the Hurricanes are considered one of the best, and the guard said, “A lot of people don’t give us enough credit. And that’s OK,” per Reynolds.
A lack of credit will no longer be a concern for Miami if it continues to play like it did Monday.