"We're really pleased with the win," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We beat an excellent basketball team tonight. They have a confident and athletic group and they were outstanding on the offensive boards tonight."
After the ‘Canes won three of their first four ACC, including a road win at Virginia, the biggest test of the season came to Miami.
And the ‘Canes were prepared.
Falling behind 8-2, the ‘Canes took a 17-16 lead on a basket by Gary Hamilton. They later tied it at 22 on a three by Anthony Harris.
But that would be the last time Miami was even with Duke.
Most in part because of the fire-like shooting of Duke. The Blue Devils were ridiculously hot throughout shooting 60.8% for the game.
After shooting 60% in the first half, there was no way they could possibly get better right?
Wrong. The Blue Devils shot 61.5% from the field in the second and hit 10-of-21 three-pointers.
And they needed every basket they got. Although they pushed the lead to 19 at one point in the second half at 69-50, the ‘Canes fought back and had a chance to cut it to five with 20 seconds to go, but Anthony Harris' three from the win rimmed out and Duke was safe.
The ‘Canes lost to the fourth-ranked team in the nation when that team played virtually perfect.
They ‘Canes lost the fourth-ranked team in the nation when their leading scorer was a shell of himself as Robert Hite only scored six points on 2-of-7 shooting. That's 13 points below his average.
If he hit his average, Miami wins by five.
The ‘Canes lost to the fourth-ranked team in the nation when the Blue Devils got virtually every questionable call as Miami was called for 22 fouls to Duke's 14. And Miami never got into foul Duke o send them to the line late.
And why did Duke get the calls? Because they're Duke.
The ‘Canes lost to the fourth-ranked team in the nation when Duke's Shelden Williams had the best game of his career shooting 11-for-12 from the field and 8-for-8 from the line for a career high 30 points.
Put into perspective that if Duke shots a human 50%, which is still excellent shooting, the ‘Canes win.
With all that said, one thing was evident, Coach K and his Blue Devils respect the ‘Canes as should the rest of the country.
"I am very impressed with UM," Coach K said. "They are together. They are very difficult to defend. They did a good job guarding in the second half. They just kept going. I am very pleased to get an ACC road win here. When you win on the road in this conference, these are cherished wins."
Coach K also has a great deal of respect for first-year coach Frank Haith and what Haith has managed to accomplish in such a short period of time.
"They had good kids. I like their kids a lot. They have a good spirit," Coach K said. "Frank hasn't allowed other people's expectations dictate what his expectations of his team should be. He doesn't look like a first-year coach and they don't look like players who are playing for a first-year coach.
The ‘Canes travel to Duke on March 3 and will face the Cameron Crazies there.
Coming into the game, there were five keys to the game:
1) Keeping the Blue Devils in check from three-point range (i.e. under 30%)
2) Not letting Shelden Williams go nuts.
3) Controlling the boards.
4) Could Miami slow the tempo down?
5) And could Robert Hite's shooting improve?
Out of those five keys, Miami failed on four of them. The ‘Canes dominated the boards, but Duke shot 47.6% from three, Williams had a career night, the score was way too high for Miami to have a legitimate chance and Hite had one of the worst games of his career offensively.
Heading into Duke on March 3, the keys remain the same and if Miami can turn two of those three around and still control the boards, we might be looking at a ‘Canes win next time.
One thing is for sure, Coach K won't take the ‘Canes lightly.
"I've learned not to let predictions affect the things you do," Coach K said. "I am not surprised about anything. In this league, everyone is good."
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