On Thursday, A.J. Griffin was suffering from food poisoning that limited him to four points. On Friday, he made Miami feel quesy.
Griffin was vomiting and slowed by a stomach bug in the quarterfinal game against Syracuse.
“He wasn’t feeling well today, either, before the game,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. Clearly, once the game started, he was feeling a little better. Griffin scored 12 straight points late in the first half to wipe out a 7-point Duke deficit and help propel the Blue Devils to an 80-76 win over Miami. The win earned the Blue Devils a spot in the ACC Championship Game on Saturday night, Duke’s 34th time playing for the league title.
Griffin finished with a team-high 21 points, hitting four of Duke’s three-pointers in the game. Griffin also hit three free throws in the final minute to help seal the victory. Griffin scored just 10 points in the first meeting with Miami, a two-point loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium in January.
Griffin shrugged off his shaky stomach. “Despite the circumstance, I was just thinking about the game, no matter how my body’s feeling,” he said. “I put it on the line for everyone.”
The Blue Devils fell behind early, falling behind 18-7 in the opening six minutes.
“It started out, they almost knocked us out,” said Krzyzewski. “The plan we had didn’t work or wasn’t working, definitely. “We could have been down even double digits (at the half) if we kept going. We did right the ship, and the second half was really back and forth.”
Freshman Paolo Banchero helped Duke stay in the game early, scoring 11 of Duke’s first 20 points. Banchero finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds and four assists.
“When I’m intense and up and talking, it rubs off, and we all are,” Banchero said. “When we went down early, I just wanted to assert myself.”
Jeremy Roach sent the game to the half knotted at 36, after going the length of the court to hit a layup just before the buzzer. Duke then built a lead of as many as seven points to get some breathing room in the second half.
“We got a little bit of a margin,” said Krzyzewski. “Two of the key plays were blocks when (Miami) had fast breaks. We turned them into buckets. That was two four-point turnarounds.”
Wendell Moore Jr. blocked both Miami fast break layups, one that set up a layup at the other end by Mark Williams, and the other of which came sandwiched between a pair of Moore layups.
However, Miami never went away. The Blue Devils went the final 4:13 of the game without a made field goal, but Duke was able to score 11 points from the line over that stretch to hold off the Hurricanes.
“It was a heck of a game,” Krzyzewski said. “Both teams are worthy of winning. Kids are making really good plays. You didn’t win because somebody made a mistake or you fumbled into something. Everything was earned tonight.”