The Hurricanes knocked off a number ranked team for the first time in school history while handing a top ranked team its third worst loss of all time.
The night couldn’t have started off any better for Miami after news came late in the day Reggie Johnson would play for the first time since his thumb injury. Once the game tipped off, the teams traded baskets before the Hurricanes exploded on a 25-1 run in the first half.
They led at half-time 42-19 while holding Duke to 22.2 percent from the floor with no Blue Devils having more than two field goals. Hopefully, Duke fans turned the game off at that point because things didn’t get any better in the second half.
In fact, the Hurricanes were so dominating in the first half that two players on the team outscored the entire Duke roster. Shane Larkin had nine points while Kenny Kadji delivered 11 in the half and neither were the team’s leading scorer. Durant Scott held the honor by recording 15 first half points. He would finish with 25 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals. Meanwhile, Kadji would record 22 points, six rebounds and two blocks while Larkin ended up with 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
Johnson wasn’t much of a factor in the game after getting into foul trouble early on. He still managed to deliver two points, five rebounds and a block while looking strong against one of the nation’s best players in Mason Plumlee.
Miami is now on a six game winning streak and improves to 5-0 in the conference, sitting atop the ACC standings. The 14-3 Hurricanes suffered back-to-back losses in Hawaii over the holiday weekend late in December after Johnson went down with his thumb injury. When you factor in the discouragement that comes with the loss of the team’s best player, along with the traveling issues between Florida and Hawaii, the two defeats are hardly something to hold against the school.
The Hurricanes did to Duke what most of the time Duke does to other teams by blowing them out with a far superior performance. Moving forward for Miami, there is no longer any remaining doubt the Hurricanes are a legitimate threat to take home the conference title. They are a veteran team led by seniors such as Johnson, Kadji, Scott, Julian Gamble and Trey McKinney Jones. Larkin, a sophomore, is the only starter who isn’t a senior.
Given the way Miami showed they can beat teams by receiving production from all five positions, it’s difficult to imagine a team being able to contain the Hurricanes.
Gamble and Kadji did an incredible job of stepping up in the absence of Johnson, which wasn’t an easy thing to do given his double-double average of 12.6 points and 10.1 rebounds. With Johnson back being a force in the paint, this will allow the 6-foot-11 Kadji to use his great shooting stroke for a big man to be even more effective. Kadji isn’t a back-to-the-basket type post player, instead choosing to show off his jump shot (like he did against Duke going 9 for 11 from the floor) to be a force offensively. With Johnson inside and Kadji capable of knocking down shots from the perimeter, the Hurricanes possess two difficult big men for defenses to contain, not to mention a talented sub off the bench in Gamble. Given Ryan Kelly’s injury and the inconsistent play from C.J. Leslie, the Hurricanes could quite possibly have the best front court in the conference.
Along with the front court, the Hurricanes perhaps have an even better back court. Scott leads the team in scoring with his average of 14.5 points per game while Larkin delivers 12.5 points per contest. Both guards are more than capable of taking control of a game as Scott delivered his season high against Duke while Larkin finished with 27 points earlier in the year.
Miami is a veteran team with inside intimidation and plenty of perimeter production, all led by the inspirational pre-game speeches from coach Jim Larranaga, a very underrated and overlooked factor for these Hurricanes.
If you were sleeping on Miami prior to this, they aren’t making any apologies for the rude awakening.