No. 23 Miami and unranked Duke have little time to celebrate after picking up key Atlantic Coast Conference wins over the weekend as they prepare to meet up Monday night in Coral Gables, Fla.
“We have to enjoy this one tonight and learn from it, but then move on very quickly,” coach Jon Scheyer said after his Blue Devils (17-6, 8-4 ACC) beat rival North Carolina 63-57 on Saturday night.
Earlier in the day, the Hurricanes (18-5, 9-4) knocked off league-leading No. 20 Clemson 78-74 on the road, leaving them tied with NC State for fourth place in the ACC behind the Tigers, Virginia, and Pittsburgh.
Duke is another half-game back in sixth place but would swap places with the Hurricanes with a win. Fourth place is significant because the top four teams in the final regular-season standings earn byes into the quarterfinals of next month’s ACC tournament.
This will be the second time in the last two weeks that the Blue Devils have faced a Saturday-Monday, home-road turnaround. After getting past Miami 68-66 in the season’s first meeting on Jan. 21, they lost 78-75 at Virginia Tech two days later.
But the win over the Tar Heels was their third in a row and should be a confidence boost heading into the season’s stretch run.
“It definitely helps,” Scheyer said. “I felt, after my time playing here, that there’s two major ways to get confidence. One is preparation. You get confident by the preparation that you put in. But two, it’s confidence from your experiences, in actually doing it, in winning.
“You know, we’ve been right there. We’ve had some close games. We just haven’t been able to get the key stop, or get the key bucket to go ahead two possessions. Tonight we did.”
Miami also has been involved in several close games with mixed success. After the two-point loss at Duke, they bounced back with an 86-63 rout of Florida State but then lost by three at Pitt before posting wins against Virginia Tech and Clemson.
“Last year we played in 17 games that were decided in the last minute, so we have a lot of experience in dealing with that,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “The difficulty is trying to win all of them. Last year I think we were 12-5. This year I think we are around .500 at the moment.”
Rebounding is a critical factor for the smallish Hurricanes. Their 38-28 advantage at Clemson marked their 25th consecutive win when outrebounding an opponent, with their nine boards on the offensive end giving them a 9-4 edge in second-chance points.
“I’m so impressed with that because you see our size, we’re not very tall,” Larranaga said. “We’re 6-7, 6-6, 6-4, 6-3 and 6-foot, and only one guy weighs over 200 pounds. We’re short and skinny but lethal.
“We have the ability with our speed and athleticism to score. And when the defense is good and our rebounding is good we’re a good team.”
–Field Level Media