No. 2 Duke tops No. 3 Virginia, 81-71

Blue Devils beat the Cavaliers for the second time this season

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Junior guard Ty Jerome scored 16 points in his return from injury.

Andrew Walsh | Cavalier Daily

In the much-anticipated clash between No. 2 Duke and No. 3 Virginia, the Blue Devils (21-2, 9-1 ACC) came away with an 81-71 win over the Cavaliers (20-2, 8-2 ACC) on Saturday night. With a packed John Paul Jones Arena –– which included Lebron James –– Duke was able to hold on to the lead for the entirety of the game, unfazed by the electrifying energy in support of Virginia. 

This was the second time this year the two programs squared off, with the Blue Devils coming away with a narrow two-point victory over the Cavaliers at Cameron Indoor Stadium earlier in the year. In that January matchup, Duke freshmen forwards R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson stole the show with 30 and 27 points, respectively. While neither team shot well from behind the arc, Virginia’s trio of starting guards –– sophomore De’Andre Hunter, junior Ty Jerome and junior Kyle Guy –– all scored in double figures.

In Saturday’s rematch, the story looked a little different, with Duke having an impressive night from three. The Blue Devils shot 61.9 percent from the three-point line. Barrett was particularly successful from beyond the arc, going 6-10 on the night. 

“I thought we were a little slow to our closeouts,” Coach Tony Bennett said. “We really tried to keep them out of the lane and jam the lane, and we probably overcorrected in terms of that. You’ve got to read, when is that guy okay on the ball and then leave and be there on the catch. I thought there were too many of those, where we were staying in a little long. But we did jam the lane, so we’ve got that going for us.”

Duke jumped off to the early lead, largely thanks to Barrett’s accuracy from three. He had 15 first-half points. Virginia, meanwhile, struggled to get on the scoreboard in the opening minutes of the game, committing two early turnovers and only scoring two points in the first five minutes of play. Junior Mamadi Diakite carried Virginia’s offense early, scoring seven out of Virginia’s first nine points. 

The Blue Devils continued to hold on to the lead for the rest of the half, leading by as many as 14, despite nine turnovers. They shot 59.1 percent from the field and an impressive 72.7 percent from three. 

“We’re a team that doesn’t get fazed very easily, [but] obviously when they hit five in a row and seven out of eight, it’s hard because it was an uphill battle all game,” Guy said. “I think that we just need to do what we do best, and we’ll be better after throughout the year.” 

A late surge by Virginia swung the momentum in the Cavaliers’ favor, bringing the game to within four points at the conclusion of the half. Guy had a team-high eight first-half points, with all of his points coming in the final three minutes. Diakite went down with an injury towards the end of the half that left him unable to return for the rest of the game.

Virginia finished shooting 46.9 percent from the field and 50 percent from three in the first half, while committing four turnovers to head into the locker room trailing 39-35. 

“I think we have to continue working on [turnovers],” Hunter said. “We turned the ball over a lot the previous two games and in practice Coach really got on us about it, but we’ll just keep working on it.” 

The second half opened with Duke increasing its lead over the Cavaliers, going up 52-41 in the first five minutes of the half as they continued to convert on threes. With 10 minutes to go in the half, Virginia started to close in on Duke’s lead, cutting it to 59-52. The Cavaliers, however, couldn’t ever take control of the game and get the lead, ultimately falling 81-71 to the Blue Devils. 

Jerome and Guy finished as Virginia’s leading scorers, each with 16 points. Jerome also had four assists and three steals in the game. Hunter reached double figures as well, scoring 11 points. The Cavaliers shot 46.7 percent from the field, 41.7 from three and finished with 14 turnovers. 

“I told our guys after, for us to beat a team like Duke, the way they’re playing, you’re going to have to play a cleaner game in a few areas,” Bennett said. “[Duke] was quicker to the ball, terrific athletes, strong handed –– they snatched some out of our hands –– some loose turnovers that lead to breakaways, and a couple careless ones here and there and then some blockouts … You can’t beat a team like Duke, especially when they’re shooting at that clip, whether we were too long in the gaps or not, without playing a really sounder, cleaner game.” 

Barrett put together another strong performance against Virginia, finishing with 26 points, including six threes. Reddish also found success from beyond the arc, with 15 of his 17 points coming from threes. Williamson had 18 points to go along with three blocks, and Tre Jones also scored in double figures, finishing with 13 points. As a team, the Blue Devils were 57.8 percent from the field, 61.9 percent from three and committed 15 turnovers.

“They hit some deep shots,” Bennett said. “[They have] some special players, and what they can do … they can certainly beat you off the dribble and get it in off the glass, but they weren’t missing many.” 

The Cavaliers will now try to recuperate from the loss quickly as they prepare for another top-ten matchup. They are set to face No. 8 North Carolina Monday night in Chapel Hill, N.C. The Tar Heels (19-4, 9-1 ACC), along with Duke, sit in first place in the ACC standings. The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. tip-off.

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