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After blowout loss to Duke, Canes drop fifth in a row, watch NCAA Tournament hopes fade

Following his Hurricanes’ fifth consecutive loss — 84-55 to eighth-ranked Duke on Wednesday night — Miami’s coach fielded a question about his team’s sinking NCAA Tournament hopes.

The theory, expressed by ESPN’s broadcasters on Wednesday, was that Miami (15-12, 6-10) would have to win the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament to make the field of 68.

“I don’t look that far down the road,” Larranaga said.

Larranaga then added sarcastically: “But if ESPN says it, then it must be right.”

That’s how things have been going lately for the Hurricanes and their normally jovial coach, who are coming off an NCAA Final Four appearance in 2023 — the greatest season in program history.

This season, however, has been marked by injuries and illnesses as the Hurricanes’ losing streak is their longest skid since dropping six in a row in February/March of 2021.

On Wednesday, for example, Miami was without two starters: Nijel Pack missed his second straight game due to a leg injury, and Matthew Cleveland was held out due to illness.

“It’s like climbing a mountain and then keep slipping back,” Larranaga said. “I think when we are at full strength and able to practice and prepare properly, we are a much better team than we are now.

“But we haven’t been at full strength almost our entire ACC schedule. We’re not as deep and not as big as some of the teams in our league.”

Larranaga said he hopes to get Pack and Cleveland back on Saturday, when Miami plays host to Georgia Tech.

However, those absences were not the only Miami issues on Wednesday.

Already thin on personnel, star Hurricanes freshman Kyshawn George was charged with two quick fouls and only played 10 first-half minutes. He finished with just two points on 1-for-7 shooting.

With all that Miami adversity, Duke went on a 13-0 run midway through the first half and led 40-23 at intermission.

The game was virtually over at that point.

Miami, which never led in the game, trailed by as many as 31 points in the second half.

The biggest difference in the game was Duke driving and kicking for open shots as the Blue Devils made 51.9 percent from the floor, including 13 of 29 on three-pointers (44.8 percent).

Miami shot just 31.1 percent from the floor, including 6 of 25 on three-pointers (24.0 percent).

Duke 7-footer Kyle Filipowski had 15 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals.

He and 6-9 teammate Mark Mitchell seemed to bother Miami’s 6-7 center Norchad Omier, who entered the game shooting 60.3 percent from the floor and 64.9 percent on two-pointers.

On Wednesday, Omier posted nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds, including six offensive boards.

But Omier made just 3-of-14 shots, missing several layups or putbacks and even one dunk.

“He missed some shots he normally makes,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said of Omier. “But I thought we played with great physicality inside. [Filipowski] played great defense. He protected — we call them ‘body ups.’

“Omier is as good a big as there is in the country. He had an off night.

“The other guy who did a great job was Mitchell. We put him on Omier and had [Filipowski] off the ball. [Mitchell] really battled [Omier] and made it difficult for him.”

Beyond the absence of Pack and Cleveland, the foul trouble of George, Omier’s off night and the talent of top-10 Duke … there was one other issue.

Effort.

Larranaga said that ingredient has been missing most if not all season.

“Basketball is actually a race,” Larranaga said. “It’s a sprint from one end of the court to the other. The team that runs faster and longer normally wins the race.

“If you don’t sprint or if you are conserving energy — whatever your reason for not getting back on defense or not trying to outrun your man of offense — there’s a good chance the other team is outworking you.

“I have felt that way [opponents outworking Miami] all season … certainly in all our losses.”