CORAL GABLES, Fla.—With the Blue Devils mounting a late comeback and momentum on their side, senior Grayson Allen jumped into a passing lane and stole a Bruce Brown Jr. pass for a breakaway slam on the other end.

Just minutes later, freshman Wendell Carter Jr. mastered the art of verticality, going straight up for a block on 6-foot-11 Dewan Huell that turned into more Blue Devil points.

For a team that has relied on one of the most explosive offenses in the nation for wins this season, Duke had to step out of its comfort zone Monday night against a scrappy Miami team that allows the second-fewest points per game in the ACC. And the Blue Devils proved up to the test, with timely defensive plays stoking the fire of a game-ending 30-9 run in the final eight minutes that helped Duke rally for an 83-75 road win against the 25th-ranked Hurricanes.

“As much as shots, those are plays that won’t be on SportsCenter, but that’s how you win ballgames, the dirty-work plays,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

The Blue Devils found the catalyst they needed to become a defensive-minded team for at least one night with a late switch to a zone defense. The Hurricanes’ shooting struggles in the first half were masked by Duke’s turnovers, which led to an onslaught of transition points for Miami.

But as the Blue Devils adjusted to Miami’s defensive pressure—committing zero turnovers in the final 11 minutes of the game—and began to generate better looks on offense, Duke applied the clamps and held the home team to just 32.5 percent shooting from the floor in the second half.

“That was a big switch for us,” freshman Marvin Bagley III said. “We just went with what was working and we just went zone and they couldn’t score on us. We got stops and got out, and that opened up stuff on the offensive end.”

Although Allen has struggled with his shot for much of the season, the guard has shown a willingness to take tough assignments on defense. The senior racked up five steals Monday night and combined with freshmen Gary Trent Jr. and Trevon Duval to hold Brown to just seven points after he torched the Blue Devils for 25 points a year ago.

Duval and Trent—who showcased his ability to get hot in a hurry with a career-high 30 points—have both gone through lulls on the defensive end, but have the physical attributes to be very good defenders when fully engaged. Duval’s struggles with giveaways against a physical Hurricane defense partially disappeared late in the contest because Duke’s stops prevented Miami from setting up their halfcourt defensive scheme.

“Defense was big in that game. It led us to get open runs and open shots,” Duval said. “Once we started to lock down on defense, we started to get going on offense.”

Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils have switched to the zone multiple times this season with mixed results. Although Duke has hit speed bumps with communicating together and rotating out of the zone, the Blue Devils’ man-to-man look has not been much better, with opposing guards routinely blowing by the first line of defense for easy layups.

Instead, the more telling sign for Duke's success has been the intensity and vigor it brings on both sides of the floor. Early-season wins against Texas and Florida showcased the kind of stretches the Blue Devils can put together when they are locked in, and Monday appeared to be the first glimmer of that top gear in conference play aside from a brief stretch at the end of their meeting with Florida State.

After abandoning the defensive end of the floor entirely in an embarrassing loss to N.C. State, Duke appears to be trending in the right direction, with its players owning up to their responsibility to play tougher during this three-game win streak. In fact, the Blue Devils’ struggles against the physicality and hyper-aggressiveness of the Hurricanes is what has accounted for much of their struggles against the program—they had lost five of their last eight games against Miami entering Monday night.

“So much of what a human being does is about his or her attitude and how they feel about something at a certain time," Krzyzewski said. "I thought we were tight, and once we started playing together, which we have been, that’s what happens. It’s not just a young team. That’s what happens with human beings.”

The next thing that would happen for a human being after a hard-fought road victory against a ranked opponent might naturally be a letdown game.

But the Duke finds itself in a stretch of its schedule where it can build on the strides it has made. The Blue Devils' next two opponents—Pittsburgh and Wake Forest—are at the bottom of the ACC totem pole, and Duke has already beaten both this season by a combined 53 points.

And with much of ACC play still ahead of them, Monday’s victory against a team that has plagued Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils in the past could be just what is needed to push them in the right direction.