CORAL GABLES, Fla.—Facing an opponent that has traditionally given them trouble, the Blue Devils got a rude awakening when freshman phenom Marvin Bagley III briefly went back to the locker room with an apparent wrist injury less than a minute into the game.
Although Duke’s star returned just minutes later and showed no lingering concerns the rest of the contest—the main focus was a different Blue Devil freshman Monday night.
Guard Gary Trent Jr. caught fire late and sparked an 18-0 run to help No. 5 Duke overcome a 13-point second-half deficit in an 83-75 win against No. 25 Miami Monday night. Trent finished with a career-high 30 points on 9-of-14 shooting and hit six big 3-pointers as the Blue Devils avoided a third straight road loss to Miami at the Watsco Center.
“They were playing harder than us. We had to pick it up and we did,” Trent said. “We got soft. We were playing like little kids. Like our coaches said, we have to play like grown men, so we played like grown men in the last 11 minutes.”
After being held scoreless for a nearly eight-minute stretch out of halftime, the Blue Devils (16-2, 4-2 in the ACC) battled back by taking care of the basketball and raising their intensity a notch on the defensive end. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s switch to a zone defense during the game-changing run stifled a Hurricane offense that finished shooting only 37.2 percent from the floor.
Trent started the rally with consecutive corner triples followed by an and-one for Bagley down low and a breakaway dunk for senior Grayson Allen. Freshman Trevon Duval then took the reins with five consecutive points of his own, as he drove to the hoop for a finger-roll and followed it up with a triple from the top of key to stretch Duke’s lead to 71-66.
After Miami (13-4, 2-3) battled back to narrow the margin, Wendell Carter Jr. stepped up with a clutch lay-in, followed by a big defensive stand for the Blue Devils to keep Duke’s lead at 73-70. Trent then nailed a dagger triple from the top of the key with just 72 seconds remaining to give the Blue Devils an insurmountable 76-70 advantage.
“The main thing was the running of the zone better, and really it was more—I don’t want to say attitude because it sounds like a kid has a bad attitude—but an atmosphere adjustment,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We’d been playing so tight, and you can say all those things, but it doesn’t mean the kid is going to do it or the team is going to do it.”
Duke’s inexperience was on display coming out of halftime as the Hurricanes’ length and aggression on the perimeter forced the Blue Devils into a number of careless turnovers. Although Miami continued to struggle with its own offense, Duke gifted its opponent points with sloppy plays that led to breakaway dunks and easy transition opportunities. For the game, Miami finished with a 31-6 advantage in fast-break points.
“Coach was just telling us to calm down,” Bagley said. “We’ve been in that position before where we’re down and trying to fight back into the game, so we know how it is. During that run, we started slowing down and we had turnovers and everybody was everywhere.”
Even in the opening 20 minutes, Duke’s ability to score against the second-stingiest defense in the conference was mitigated by a back-breaking 12 turnovers, but the Blue Devils avoided an early hole with contributions from their freshmen.
Carter anchored the Blue Devils down low and recorded a double-double by halftime en route to 15 points and 14 rebounds. The big man battled 6-foot-11 Dewan Huell in the paint and did a much better job contesting without fouling against Miami’s aggressive guards. Huell’s presence affected a number of shots at the rim, and the sophomore proved to be a tough cover with 18 points and 13 rebounds himself.
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Bagley also posted his 15th double-double of the season to set the Duke freshman record, passing Gene Banks and Jabari Parker with nearly half the season still to play.
Meanwhile, Duval and Trent led Duke in the backcourt, and both connected on open looks along the perimeter to help the Blue Devils space the floor. In a back-and-forth first-half, the duo kept Duke afloat as Hurricane freshman Lonnie Walker IV started hot from the field and Miami pushed the pace.
With just four seconds remaining before halftime, senior Grayson Allen hit the ground for a loose ball. The captain gathered and quickly found Trent darting to the 3-point line for a look as the buzzer sounded. Trent nailed the off-balance jumper, giving the Blue Devils a 42-40 lead after the first 20 minutes of play.
But the Hurricanes wiped out the momentum from Trent’s jumper almost immediately and pulled away with a 19-2 run. The length and aggression of the Hurricanes’ perimeter defenders bothered the Blue Devils once again, as Duke struggled to get the ball into the post and settled for rushed jumpers.
Duke responded with a late-game stretch that evoked memories of its early-season comebacks against Texas and Florida in the PK80 Invitational. After pushing through the ups and downs of ACC play, the Blue Devils appeared to finally hit the gear that the team teased in its nonconference schedule.
“We’re not where we want to be. That’s the moral of the story,” Trent said. “We have to continue to go hard because we’re not number one in the ACC. We gave up some games in the ACC and we just want to be successful.”
Duke will hope to continue its climb up the conference standings and notch its fourth consecutive victory when it takes on Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon back in Durham at Cameron Indoor Stadium.