DURHAM — It seemed like it was over. It felt like it was over. One minute and 55 seconds remained in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday night, and Duke led Miami by 10 points.
Comebacks aren’t often born amid such tense circumstances. But that’s when the Hurricanes began a rally that nearly sent the game into overtime. Instead, after Miami missed two 3-point attempts in the final seconds, Duke held on for a 79-76 victory.
“We never gave up,” Shane Larkin, the Miami point guard, said of his team’s ill-fated comeback attempt. “Coach brought us in. He said there was a lot of time left in the game. Just keep playing and keep doing what we were doing the whole game.
“And we did that. And we got it close. We just couldn’t finish it off.”
Larkin, who led the Hurricanes with 25 points, made a 3-pointer with about 90 seconds remaining to cut Duke’s lead to six. About 30 seconds later, he passed to Trey McKinney-Jones, whose 3-pointer cut the Blue Devils’ lead to three.
Sixty-six seconds remained. The Duke student section, boisterous and loud for most of the night, quieted.
After a Duke turnover, Larkin made one of his two free throws to cut Duke’s lead to two. It was as close as the Hurricanes came.
Mike Krzyzewski, coach at Duke, later described Larkin’s performance as “magical.” Krzyzewski said Larkin is “by far,” the best guard in the ACC.
But the most important shot Larkin attempted on Saturday – a 3-pointer that would have tied the game at 79 with six seconds to play – fell just short. Miami guard Durand Scott secured the offensive rebound, and passed to Rion Brown, who was open in the left corner.
His last-second shot bounced off the back of the rim. The Blue Devils exhaled.
“We came into this game with a lot of confidence,” said Larkin, whose team defeated Duke by 27 in January. “We knew what this game could potentially do for our program – clinching the first regular-season (ACC) title for our program. So it was a big game for us, and we all wanted to win very badly. We fought hard.”
Jim Larranaga, Miami’s second-year coach, allowed himself at times to recognize what was happening around him. He felt a part of something special on Saturday night, and he said he reminded his team of that, too.
“I told the team, this is a great game,” Larranaga said. “We’ve got to keep plugging away.”
The Hurricanes led by two at halftime and by as many as three with about 10 minutes to play. From there, though, Duke took control and built its largest lead with less than two minutes remaining.
Larranaga credited his team’s comeback to its resiliency, yet he also acknowledged Duke’s mistakes that gave Miami hope. During the final two minutes, the Blue Devils missed four free throws and committed two turnovers.
After the last of those missed free throws, by Seth Curry, 20 seconds remained. Larranaga called a play called “twist.”
“I was just trying to create space and get a good open three,” Larkin said. “I shot it, and it was short. ... We didn’t hit the shot that we needed.”
Carter: 919-829-8944; Twitter: @_andrewcarter