As a general rule, I try to stay away from the hackneyed “tale of two halves” narrative.
But sometimes, the narrative just writes itself.
If all you know about Duke’s 70-58 win over Miami Saturday night is the score, then you might think a whiff of routine was in the air.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Miami dominated the first half in Cameron Indoor Stadium to such an extent that Miami coach Jim Larranaga said his team thought it had the game won at intermission.
It’s easy to see how they got that impression. The half began with Grayson Allen missing a dunk and ended with Allen being called for a foul with 0.3 seconds left. Not three seconds. Three-tenths of a second.
In between, Duke was outworked and outplayed. Duke missed all eight of its first-half 3-point attempts, notched a single assist and grabbed fewer (four) offensive rebounds than Miami’s Kamari Murphy (five). It would have been worse than 36-25 had Miami not missed six of eight from the line.
“We weren’t tough, we didn’t do it together, we got down and maybe tried to do some things on our own,” Capel said of the first half. “Because our defense was so poor in the first half, we were not able to get out in transition.”
Miami did all this with Amile Jefferson making his first start since the Boston College game. Jefferson said Friday was the first day he was able to finish a practice.
With a third consecutive loss looming large, Jefferson and Matt Jones seized control of the team at halftime.
“We got on each other and decided to sink or swim,” Jefferson said. “The coaches made a change and they put it on us to be Duke.”
Jones added “we had nothing to lose and had to play like it. We needed a spark and we needed it from our upperclassmen. We’ve been there before and we knew that if we did that, then the guys would take our lead.”
Capel said he wanted energy more than anything else and started the second half with both Allen and Luke Kennard on the bench, starting Jefferson, Jones, Frank Jackson, Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden.
It helped that Jones went into halftime as Clark Kent and came back out as Superman. Less than a minute into the half, he stripped Murphy and finished with a tough layup. He dug out another 50/50 ball and hit a 3, making it 37-32. He did it again two minutes late, tying the game at 37.
Larranaga said he knew right away that he was facing a different Duke team.
“We weren’t sharp right away. The initial possession, we got a rebound and out-letted the ball to them. We didn’t defend them, they drove to the basket and we were not there to compete with them at the rim.”
Duke transformed itself into a blue-collar team, Jackson getting to the rim, Bolden playing his best game in Duke blue and most of all getting stops, determined, hands-in-the-face, working the switches stops, the kind of gritty defense we haven’t seen in a while.
Jackson gave Duke its first second-half lead at 39-37 with a layup, then Bolden slammed home a follow and Miami just fell apart. The visitors didn’t get their first second-half field goal until a Davon Reed 3-pointer 7:26 into the half ended a staggering 22-1 run, 22 Duke points in barely seven minutes.
The Blue Devils continued to pour it on, a 3-pointer by Kennard giving Duke its biggest lead, at 66-45. A couple of careless turnovers late made the score a bit more respectable.
Tatum led Duke with 14 points, 12 in the second half. All of Jones’ 13 points came after intermission. Kennard and Jackson added 11 and 10 respectively, while Jefferson grabbed 12 rebounds in 34 tough minutes.
But the eye-opener on the stat sheet was Duke’s 31-0 advantage in bench points. Miami’s top scorers, Reed, Jaquan Newton and Bruce Brown combined for 20 second-half points but their teammates added only two to that.
Reed led everyone with 19 points, while Murphy finished with 15 rebounds.
Duke’s win moves them to 3-3 in the ACC, 15-4 overall and keeps the Blue Devils undefeated at Cameron.
Speaking of Cameron, the Crazies were out in force, the second-half rally sparked by the kind of white-noise din that visibly bothered the visitors.
Harry Giles played only eight foul-plagued minutes. But Bolden parlayed his best week of practice into eight points, four rebounds and a badly-needed physical presence in the interior.
Allen jammed a finger at the end of the first half. He says he’s fine. He always says that. And he did play 11 second-half minutes, no points but two assists and a steal.
But another injury to track.
And no word on Mike Krzyzewski’s return.
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