No. 14 Virginia returns home to face Duke
Cavaliers look to bounce back after third loss in five games
After suffering a tough loss on the road, the No. 14 Virginia men's basketball team returns to John Paul Jones Arena for a big matchup against ACC foe No.12 Duke.
In their most recent matchup, Virginia (18-6, 8-4 ACC) took a 80-78 loss against rival Virginia Tech in double overtime. Virginia Tech senior guard Seth Allen hit a short jumper with 3.2 seconds left in the second overtime period to grab the win for the Hokies. The Cavaliers were not able to contain Allen, who finished with 22 points.
Senior guard London Perrantes put up 22 points for the Cavaliers, but he missed 15 of 22 attempts from the field. His potential go-ahead layup with 21.2 seconds left in the first overtime period settled on the back rim, leading to a jump ball and Hokie possession.
Freshman guard Kyle Guy and junior guard Marial Shayok both scored in double digits with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Junior forward Isaiah Wilkins added five points and nine rebounds.
As a team, Virginia struggled to cash in easy points from the free throw line, shooting 58.3 percent on 24 attempts.
“You know, we missed ten free throws at important times,” coach Tony Bennett said. “And that really stung.”
In what seems to be a pattern in the team’s losses this season, the Cavaliers gave up yet another double digit halftime lead. The loss was Virginia’s third against an unranked ACC opponent on the road — dropping the team two spots in national rankings.
The Cavaliers’ next opponent — the Duke Blue Devils (20-5, 8-4 ACC) — also fell to Virginia Tech earlier in the season. However, Duke is currently on a five game winning streak, including big wins against No. 25 Notre Dame and rival No. 10 UNC — the team that currently tops the ACC standings. Duke moved up six spots from last week’s national rankings.
In their most recent matchup, the Blue Devils pulled out a close win against Clemson, 62-64. Similar to the Virginia-Virginia Tech game, Duke gave up a 14 point lead in the second half. However, the Blue Devils’ defense got a stop at the buzzer to take the win.
Sophomore guard Luke Kennard contributed 25 points in the winning effort. At one point in the second half, he scored 15 consecutive points. In Duke’s last five wins, Kennard has averaged 21 points per game.
Graduate forward Amile Jefferson added six points and grabbed nine boards, while freshman forward Jayson Tatum scored nine points and snagged seven rebounds in the win.
Duke will be a tough matchup for Virginia, as the Blue Devils roster consists of several efficient offensive threats, any of whom could put up a big scoring game.
Kennard leads Duke with 20 points per game, and does so with extreme efficiency. He is shooting 52.7 percent from the field and 45.9 percent from behind the arc.
Jefferson is another strong presence on both ends of the court. He averages 11.3 points per game, with a field goal percentage of 59.2 percent — the fourth highest in the ACC. On the defensive end, he is averaging 9.1 boards and 1.5 blocks per game. Containing Jefferson will be no easy task for Virginia’s bigs.
In addition to Kennard and Jefferson, three other Duke players average double digits — Tatum, senior guard Grayson Allen and freshman guard Frank Jackson. Comparatively, Virginia has only one player averaging double digits — Perrantes.
However, the Cavaliers’ pack line defense is still the best in the country. Virginia limits teams to only 55.1 points per game, a number far below the average of 82 points Duke scores per game. The slow play of the Cavaliers could trip Duke up, but Virginia must maintain a consistent effort on both ends of the court throughout the entire 40 minutes of play if they want to pull out the win.
Virginia, Duke and Louisville are tied for third in the ACC. As with every game in the most competitive conference in the nation, any win is key for both ACC tournament and NCAA March Madness rankings.
The matchup is sure to be an exciting one, not only because the two are fighting to move up in the rankings, but also because of the recent history between the teams. When the two teams faced off last February, Duke stunned Virginia on a controversial Allen buzzer beater.
“This is one of the best stretches I’ve ever — this team will have to face,” Bennett said regarding the team's recent tough schedule. “We understand that, we know that, that’s this league. You know, you just embrace it, you try to love the challenge.”
The game tips off at JPJ Wednesday at 9 p.m.