MIAMI (SportsDirect Inc.) – No. 11 Duke visits Miami on Saturday with the teams separated by a single game in the ACC standings and both needing strong finishes to potentially earn one of four coveted double-byes in the conference tournament.
The Blue Devils find themselves in a four-way tie for second place behind No. 8 North Carolina following their last-second loss at Syracuse on Wednesday, while the Hurricanes upset No. 19 Virginia 54-48 in overtime on Monday for their third straight win.
The Blue Devils had won seven in a row prior to Syracuse’s John Gillon draining a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that gave the Orange a must win despite impressive performances by Duke’s Luke Kennard (23 points) and freshman Jayson Tatum (19, 13 rebounds).
“This is one of the best leagues in the country, and we can’t let up because we go down to Miami in 48 hours and play a really good, hungry Miami team,” graduate student Amile Jefferson, who scored 14 points against the Orange, told reporters after the loss. “We have to move on.”
The Hurricanes overcame a seven-point deficit in the second half against Virginia behind the clutch shooting of freshman Bruce Brown, who hit the go-ahead 3-pointer in the final minute of overtime and also finished 9-of-10 from the foul line.
Miami, which is 4-4 against Duke under coach Jim Larranaga, will be looking to atone for a dismal second-half performance in the previous meeting in which it led by nine points at halftime before coming completely unglued during a 31-4 run that resulted in a 70-58 win for the Blue Devils.
ABOUT DUKE (22-6, 10-5 ACC): Kennard (20.1 points), who is first in the ACC and ninth in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (46.1), and Grayson Allen (15, 3.9 assists) are one of the country’s most dynamic backcourt duos, although the latter has struggled with his shot of late while playing with a sore ankle. Tatum (16.6 points, 7.4 rebounds) has emerged as one of the nation’s top freshmen while the highly touted Harry Giles (4.9, 4.1), is showing steady improvement after missing the first 11 games with an injury. Graduate student Amile Jefferson (11.3 points, 8.7 rebounds), who provides leadership, energy and an inside defensive presence, is second in the ACC in field-goal percentage (60.5), fifth in rebounding and fourth in blocked shots per game (1.6).
ABOUT MIAMI (19-8, 9-6); The Hurricanes’ three-game winning streak has been accomplished despite the absence of starting point guard Ja’Quan Newton (15 points, 3.6 assists), who will return to action Saturday after serving a three-game suspension. Brown (11.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists) proved to be an able replacement while senior Kamari Murphy (seven points, 7.7 rebounds), who is known more for his defense and rebounding than his shooting ability, averaged 11.3 points and was 15-of-21 in Newton’s absence. Davon Reed (15.4 points, 4.4 rebounds) is Miami’s top 3-point threat, but he is coming off a tough 2-of-11 shooting performance against Virginia.
- Miami, which is shooting 72.2 percent from the foul line, went 20-of-22 against Virginia – outscoring the Cavaliers at the stripe by seven points in the OT win.
- Kennard has made at least one 3-point shot in each of his last 31 games.
- Jefferson needs eight points to become the ninth Duke player under Mike Krzyzewski to notch 1,000 and 850 rebounds in his career.
(© Copyright 2017 SportsDirect Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)