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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Miami tightens its grip on first place in the ACC by pounding top-ranked Duke

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Julian Gamble and Shane Larkin celebrate Miami's win (Getty Images)

At the 17:43 mark of the second half, with No. 25 Miami curb-stomping top-ranked Duke by an unfathomable 30 points, the man with the reputation as TV's most well-known Blue Devils apologist had seen enough.

"This is the poorest performance I have witnessed from a Duke team in all my years sitting courtside," ESPN analyst Dick Vitale said.

The Blue Devils salvaged a bit of pride by the end of Miami's 90-63 victory, but it was hard to argue with Vitale's assessment.

Miami held Duke without a field goal for more than eight minutes in the latter portion of the first half, unleashing a 25-1 blitz to turn what briefly had been a back-and-forth game into a 38-15 rout. Only five times in program history had Duke ever trailed by more than 23 points at halftime, yet it somehow got even worse to start the second half as Miami scored the first seven points to extend its lead to 30.

Even though the win was Miami's first against a top-ranked opponent, the ramifications of the victory for the Hurricanes were even larger than that. They're now 5-0 in the ACC, two games clear of Duke and NC State in the loss column and three or more ahead of every other team in the league.

Wednesday's loss will send Duke tumbling out of the top spot in the polls, meaning there will be a new No. 1 on Monday for the third consecutive week. The one-sided nature of the result also suggests the Blue Devils have more issues than merely the indefinite absence of forward Ryan Kelly (foot injury).

They were helpless against the quickness of guards Shane Larkin (18 points) and Durand Scott (25 points) off ball screens. They had no answer for the inside-outside versatility of Kenny Kadji (22 points, 9 of 11 shooting). And while they uncharacteristically missed some layups and open 3-pointers, they also missed the perimeter shooting, passing and spacing that Kelly brings.

It's hard to imagine Miami playing any better than this, yet the Hurricanes will get stronger from a personnel standpoint in the coming weeks. Center Reggie Johnson, an all-conference candidate entering the season, returned from a month-long injury absence on Wednesday night, yet looked rusty and out of shape in a brief foul-plagued appearance.

As he gets back into game shape, Miami will have another interior weapon at its disposal. That's great news for the Hurricanes and bad news for the 11 ACC schools chasing them.

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