For the second time this season, the Duke Blue Devils have beaten the team who most people consider the “other” best team in the ACC, The Virginia Cavaliers. Last time, on January 19th, the Blue Devils were able to do it by getting the ball in the paint and creating easy looks for themselves to overcome a 2/14 effort from behind the three-point line to pick up a 72-70 win. This time they showed they could beat one of the top teams in college basketball in a much different fashion.
Last time these two teams met, Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett combined to score 57 points, but in this one four of the five starters reached double-digits in scoring, lead by RJ Barrett, who went for 26 points and was hot from behind the arc, going 6/10 on threes, including a 5/5 start for Barrett, who lead his team to a big early lead.
Duke, who was announced as the number one seed in the NCAA Tournament committee’s eyes earlier in the day, lead by as many as 14 in the first half after they got off to a very hot start, going 8/11 on threes in the first half. Despite that hot stretch and the big early lead, Virginia managed to recover after they got their offensive footing under them, going on a nice run, lead mostly by Kyle Guy, to only trail 39-35 at the half.
Considering how hot Duke started on the offensive end of the floor and how rough Virginia started and with them being down 14 at one point, they had to feel good going into half only being down four points.
Virginia was also able to get some good production off the bench, with Jay Huff scoring eight points and Braxton Key pulling in 10 rebounds, plus they had 14,629 fans cheering them on and that couldn’t hurt. This enabled them to be able to stay within an arms length of one of the nations most explosive teams for all 40 minutes.
While Virginia was able to keep things reasonable, it never felt like they had a great chance to get the win because Zion Williamson was filling up the statsheet, going for 18 points, five rebounds, five assists and three blocks. RJ Barrett was hitting big shot after big shot, and after not scoring in the first half, Tre Jones was able to keep the defense honest in the second half by scoring 13 points, while also assisting on seven baskets over the course of the game.
Virginia showed poise being able to hang in the game and only end up losing 81-71 after the rough start to the game, but ultimately Duke going 13/21 from three and having the offensive balance they had proved to be too much as they justified the committee having them as the number one overall seed, beating Virginia for the second time this season and this time doing it on the road.