Miami center Reggie Johnson entered Wednesday’s game against No. 1 Duke at the 14:17 mark of the first half to a crowd chanting his name.
His unexpected return to the Hurricanes’ lineup after missing eight games with a broken thumb might not bring instant production from the 6-10, 292-pound senior, but if Wednesday’s energy and effort were any indication, his return has this team reinvigorated and ready for a run at an ACC title.
Energy and hot shooting from No. 25 Miami sunk Duke out of the gate, with the Hurricanes ripping off a 25-1 first-half run on their way to a dominating 90-63 win over the Blue Devils at BankUnited Center in Coral Gables, Fla.
The backcourt combination of Durand Scott and Shane Larkin was too much for Duke in the first half. Scott scored 15 first-half points on 6-of-8 shooting from the floor and Larkin added nine, extending the Duke defense away from the basket with strong shooting from three-point range.
Scott finished with 25 points and Larkin had 18.
Senior Kenny Kadji did his part to pick apart Duke’s defense as well, scoring 22 points on the night, including 2-of-3 from three-point range and a layup, plus the foul that extended Miami’s lead to 23 points with 2:54 to play in the first.
Duke worked to get open shots in the first half, but could not convert. The Blue Devils shot just 8-of-36 (22 percent) from the field in the first half, helping to spur Miami’s transition game and allowing Scott and Larkin to lead the break.
The Blue Devils were once again without Ryan Kelly, who continues to be sidelines with a lingering foot injury. A stalling offense could likely have been helped along by his
Miami came out with the same intensity in the second half and never relented. Duke cycled in players from its bench looking for an energy boost, including Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee.
Murphy was one of the few bright spots for Duke Wednesday night, finishing with 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the floor. Quinn Cook, Seth Curry, and Tyler Thornton, expected to all be major contributors, combined to shoot 1-of-29 on the night. That abysmal three percent outing was only amplified by Kelly’s absence.
The win keeps Miami undefeated in the ACC and improves its conference record to 5-0. The Hurricanes now have a two-game lead on Duke and a 1.5-game lead on NC State.
Miami moves on to play Florida State and Virginia Tech, meaning they could conceivably enter its Feb. 2 matchup with NC State at 7-0.
The Duke loss is one of the worst in recent memory for a No. 1 team. In 2004, No. 1 Wake Forest lost to Illinois, 91-73. Also in 2004, No. 1 St. Joseph’s lost to Xavier, 87-67.
The loss is the third-worst ever for a team ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_