The Chronicle staff has made it to sunny Coral Gables for tonight’s 6:45 p.m. matchup between No. 5 Duke (22-2, 9-1 in the ACC) and unheralded Miami (15-9, 4-6). It’ll be important for the Blue Devils not to overlook the Hurricanes just four days after their epic comeback against rival North Carolina. Looking ahead, here are the three keys for tonight’s game:
1. Keep Miami distanced.
The Hurricanes are thrill artists when it comes to games in the BankUnited Center, as each of their last five games at home have been decided by three points or less (Miami is 3-2 in that stretch). Between the Blue Devils and the Hurricanes, four of the last five games have had single-digit winning margins. If Miami can keep it close late, the Hurricanes have already shown the ability to pull out wins on the final possession.
2. Win the battle in the post.
Led by 6-foot-10, 303-pound center Reggie Johnson, the Miami frontline held the brothers Plumlee to just 8 points collectively on January 2nd, when Duke won 74-63 in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Johnson is likely going to hit his averages tonight, the sophomore scores at a clip 13.1 points per game in conference play, and his 9.7 rebounds per contest is good for fourth place in the ACC. If Mason Plumlee can continue his offensive resurgence, however, he can help negate Johnson’s success down low, and Duke’s stellar perimeter players should have a marked advantage over Miami’s.
3. Can Seth Curry stay hot?
Nolan Smith may have gotten the lion’s share of the media attention after Duke’s comeback over the Tar Heels, but Seth Curry was just as instrumental in the second half. During one stretch, the redshirt sophomore scored seven consecutive points for the Blue Devils, en route to a season-high 22 points. After scoring 35 points in the last two games, Curry will likely be well marked against the Hurricanes, but if he can continue to knock down open jump shots and assert himself as the third or fourth option offensively, the Blue Devils will feel much more comfortable about their chances come NCAA Tournament time.