Hurricanes lead start to finish, roll over Duke 81-59 in front of electric home crowd

It wasn’t quite Cameron Indoor Stadium, but the Watsco Center was electric Monday night, the student sections were jam-packed, and the Miami Hurricanes fed off the energy from the opening whistle against Duke in an 81-59 blowout Miami led from start to finish.

The 19th-ranked Canes improved to 19-5 overall, 10-4 in the ACC and 13-0 at home.

After the game, the entire UM team ran into stands and celebrated with the students. The Hurricanes said the win was especially satisfying after losing at Duke by two points three weeks ago.

“Last time we played them, obviously they’re a great team, but we felt we beat ourselves,” said UM guard Jordan Miller. “They had home court advantage, but we knew we still had a lot to prove, a lot of respect to gain. And that’s what we came out and did.”

UM coach Jim Larranaga added: “That was a great performance from start to finish, jumping out on them, got us off to a great start, lot of energy. And all I can say is everybody that came tonight is invited back. That’s the kind of environment we’d love to have every night. The whiteout, the noise, the students packed the endzones. That’s what ACC basketball is all about. That fuels us. The players feed off that electricity...tonight was all about adrenaline and effort.”

The coach said he was worried his team would run out of gas in the second half, “but we came out like gangbusters and got it up to 20.”

Power forward Norchad Omier started the night with a rare three-pointer to ignite the crowd and ended the game with a team-high 17 points, 10 rebounds, a block, and two steals. Miller was also all over the floor with 16 points, five rebounds, four assists, three steals and a pair of blocks.

Wooga Poplar added 14 points and Isaiah Wong had 11. Nigel Pack, the 6-foot guard who had come on strong the previous few games, was held to five points but pitched in five rebounds, six assists and brought the house down with a put back dunk late in the game.

Miami outrebounded the taller Blue Devils 38-31, forced Duke into 21 turnovers and scored 23 points off those miscues. With just over four minutes left in the game, UM fans began chanting the “Na-na-na-na, Goodbye!” song.

Although Duke has slipped from the rankings in recent weeks, a nationally televised home game against the Blue Devils is always a big deal.

So big that the student passes were all gone by Sunday night for the first time this season. So big that 15 NBA scouts from 10 teams requested credentials for press row.

So big that the sellout crowd of 7,972 included Hurricanes legend Rick Barry, former Duke great and NBA All-Star Carlos Boozer, former NFL player Todd Gurley, and Marlins players Jazz Chisholm Jr., Jorge Soler and Avisail Garcia, who sat behind the scorers’ table as guests of former UM player and newly hired Marlins first base coach John Jay.

The first half started and ended with emphatic plays by Omier. Known for his energy, rebounding and points in the paint, the 6-7 Nicaraguan surely caught the Blue Devils off guard by launching his first basket from beyond the arc. That three set off a 13-1 run and Duke was never able to dig out of the hole.

Omier had made just one three all year before Monday and he made two against Duke. He put an exclamation on the first half with a rim-shaking dunk off a feed from Nijel Pack to give the Hurricanes a 40-26 lead at the break.

“My teammates trust me, I was feeling good, was wide open, my coaches tell me to shoot when I’m wide open so I just let it fly,” said Omier, who transferred to UM from Arkansas State this season . “It felt great. The crowd is our sixth man, the hype, they push me to do better. Anytime you hear about college basketball, you think of Duke and North Carolina, there’s no better feeling than beating them.”

Well into the second half, Omier had only two fouls, a welcome stat to UM coaches, who have been working with the high-octane forward on directing his energy and being more selective in his fouls.

Keeping Omier out of foul trouble was especially critical against Duke’s front court, which is led by 7-foot freshman Kyle Filipowski and 7-1 freshman Dereck Lively II.

“You gotta understand what it’s like for a guy who’s 6-7 going against two 7-footers who are going to be NBA first-round draft picks,” Larranaga said. “They can block shots and rebound. Norchad is 6-7 and 245 pounds and he has to deal with that every night and he did not have to deal with that at Arkansas State, so the elevation of his game has been tremendous and he’s just scratching the surface.”

With the loss Duke dropped to 17-7 overall and 8-5 in the ACC. Lively and Ryan Young led the Devils with 11 points apiece, Jeremy Roach had 10 and Filipowski was limited to nine on 4-of-12 shooting.

Duke coach Jon Scheyer heaped praise on Miami, but said his team lacked the competitive fire it had shown in previous road games.

“That’s on me, our guys and our team, it’s disappointing,” Scheyer said. “Not taking any credit away from Miami. They won. They beat us. No excuses. It starts with the turnovers. If you give any team 21 turnovers, but especially a team as good as Miami, layups and dunks in transition, it’s going to be a heck of a night. Miami was ready to play. They’re explosive. You can talk about their lack of size, but they’re strong, experienced, know how to play. They can hurt you from every position.”

Neither team had much time to celebrate significant weekend victories. The Hurricanes beat ACC leader Clemson 78-74 on the road on Saturday afternoon and Duke knocked off archrival North Carolina 63-57 Saturday night, an emotional victory that was extra sweet because the Tar Heels broke the Blue Devils’ hearts twice last year, in retiring coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final home game and again in the Final Four in New Orleans.

Scheyer refused to blame a post-UNC victory letdown for the loss to Miami. “They had to play on Saturday, too. There’s no excuses. That’s part of playing big-time college basketball.”

The Hurricanes and Blue Devils did not have to do much scouting before Monday’s game because they were quite familiar with each other, having just played Jan. 21 in Durham.

Unlike Monday’s game, the one at Cameron went down to the final possession before Duke sealed the 68-66 win. Wong was slowed by a sinus infection that night and finished with just seven points.

Omier was held to nine points in their first meeting but had 14 rebounds. Filipowski had 17 points and 14 rebounds that night while Lively had 10 rebounds and five blocks.

Lively had made a big impact of late with 20 blocks in the previous five games. Against UNC he had 14 rebounds and eight blocks.

Rebounding has been a critical factor for the relatively undersized Hurricanes all season. Their 38-28 advantage at Clemson came as a surprise to Larranaga.

“I’m so impressed with that because you see our size, we’re not very tall,” Larranaga said after the Clemson win. “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.”

They were a good team on Monday, and Duke paid the price.

The Hurricanes improved to 8-9 against Duke under Larranaga after going 2-15 against the Blue Devils prior to his arrival.

Miami is back home Feb. 11 against Louisville.