The University of Miami moved within a victory of winning its first ACC regular-season championship Wednesday with an easy 76-58 victory over Virginia Tech at a sold-out BankUnited Center.
Up next? A trip on Saturday to Cameron Indoor Stadium to face No. 3 Duke, which the Hurricanes humiliated 90-63 on Jan. 23 when the Blue Devils were ranked No. 1.
A win against Duke would hand No. 5 UM (23-4, 14-1) the conference regular-season title and the top seed in the ACC tournament, which begins on March 14 in Greensboro, N.C. The Hurricanes have clinched a first-round bye.
“It’s going to be a blast,” senior guard Trey McKinney-Jones said. “We beat them here this year and we beat them (at Duke) last year so they’re going to be gunning for our heads.”
UM’s 27-point win against the Blue Devils in January marked one of the worst defeats in the career of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. Some thought the Hurricanes rubbed it in when the five players on the court slapped the floor in unison — as Duke is noted for doing — while setting up for a defensive stand in the second half.
“It’s going to be a big game,” said UM point guard Shane Larkin, who registered his lone career double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds against Duke in January. “They want revenge.”
Miami’s rout of the Hokies (12-16, 3-12) on Wednesday followed Saturday’s 80-65 loss to Wake Forest that snapped UM’s 14-game win streak and handed the Hurricanes their first defeat since Christmas.
Led by Larkin’s game-high 22 points, the Hurricanes emerged from a three-game offensive slump in which they averaged only 55 points. Larkin, who scored 31 combined points in his last three games, made 8-of-12 field-goal attempts and had six assists.
“We had no answer for him,” Virginia Tech coach James Johnson said.
The Hurricanes made 50 percent of their field-goal attempts for the first time since they played Florida State on Feb. 13. Aside from Larkin, UM also received a strong offensive contribution from senior forward Kenny Kadji, who finished with 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
After making only 16-of-63 three-pointers over its last four games, UM made 8-of-21 Wednesday.
“After a loss, how do you respond?” asked UM coach Jim Larranaga.
Virginia Tech, last in the ACC standings and loser in 10 of its last 11 games, provided little resistance. The Hokies fell behind by 19 at halftime and didn’t cut the deficit below 16 points thereafter.
Virginia Tech guard Erick Green, the nation’s leading scorer with a 25.2-point average, made little impact. He finished with 16 points, tied for his lowest output this season against ACC competition, and had only six points in the first half when the game was all but decided.
“Miami’s defense did a really good job on him,” Johnson said.
Senior guard Durand Scott did not start against Virginia Tech for disciplinary reasons, reportedly for showing up late for a shootaround Wednesday. It marked the first time since Scott was a sophomore in 2010-11 that he did not start a game he played in.
UM’s 23 victories are one short of the school record, set in 2001-02.
“If we can go into Duke — one of the traditional powerhouses in college basketball — and clinch, that would be an amazing experience and add another special moment to our already special season,” Larkin said.