No. 7 Virginia men’s basketball fell to Duke 66-65 Saturday night in Durham, N.C. The Cavaliers (15-5, 11-3 ACC) and the Blue Devils (10-8, 8-6 ACC) went back and forth throughout the game, but a late cold spell from Virginia — not scoring in the final 3:09 — ultimately doomed Virginia.
Duke came out strong, with sophomore forward Matthew Hurt and freshman guard Jeremy Roach hitting three-pointers on the team’s first two possessions. Virginia answered with nine points of their own as the Cavaliers penetrated the paint and finished the run with a deep three-pointer from senior forward Sam Hauser.
Heading into the second media timeout, both teams shot well, hitting a combined 17 of 25 shots. With 10:43 left in the first half, Virginia led 22-18 with Hauser leading the team with seven points and Hurt leading the Blue Devils with three three-pointers.
After the Cavaliers took a 25-20 lead on a three-pointer from junior guard Kihei Clark, Duke ripped off a 9-0 run on the strength of freshman forward Jaemyn Brakefield. The highly touted recruit has seen limited minutes this season, but his impact in this game was immediate as he scored nine consecutive points.
The two teams went back and forth to close the half, with the Blue Devils taking a 39-36 advantage heading into the break. Both teams shot extremely well, as the Cavaliers shot 60 percent from the floor and Duke hit 56 percent of its shots.
Virginia was led by Hauser’s 12 points — hitting all five of his shot attempts — and the Blue Devils were led by Hurt’s 12 points, who hit four of the team’s seven first half three-pointers. After allowing 81 points Monday night against Florida State in a blowout loss, Coach Tony Bennett certainly could not have been happy with his team’s first half defensive performance.
“There were some breakdowns,” Bennett said. “Those in tight games you can’t afford, and I think it was pretty easy for them to score on us in the first half.”
Senior forward Jay Huff took over for the Cavaliers to open the second half. Huff scored six consecutive points on three dunks all following an offensive rebound. After a three-point play from Hurt, Hauser continued his perfect game with another three-pointer.
From there, the teams once again entered into a back-and-forth battle with neither team gaining significant separation and Duke tying the game at 49 on a layup from Roach. Both sides appeared to be more locked-in defensively with the game tied at 51 apiece with 8:33 left in the game.
Virginia took a five-point lead on a layup and a foul from Clark, but the Blue Devils quickly tied the game on a three-pointer from freshman guard DJ Steward. The teams continued to battle in a close game, and with 3:27 left, Hurt answered a three-pointer from Clark with a deep two-pointer to bring Duke within one at 63-62.
The Blue Devils took their first lead since 18:57 and remained in the game on a bucket from Brakefield with 1:59 left. Despite multiple opportunities to recapture the lead, including a three-pointer from Hauser that rattled out and a botched play with time expiring, the Cavaliers failed to score another point and lost 66-65.
Duke shot over 50 percent from the floor, and despite being out-rebounded 32-22 being dominated in the paint, nine three-pointers from the Blue Devils to only five from Virginia made the difference in the game.
The loss marks the second straight for Virginia after winning 11 of its first 12 conference matchups. With the upset, the Cavaliers now fall behind Florida State in the loss column in the ACC standings and will have to work to take the regular season crown.
For the game, Virginia was led by 19 points and eight rebounds from Hauser and 20 points and 12 rebounds from Huff. Clark chipped in 15 points, as the three veterans scored 54 of the 65 points scored by the Cavaliers.
Significantly, junior guard Trey Murphy only scored four points on two first half dunks. Murphy has averaged double-figures scoring for the season, and Duke’s defense on him put increased pressure on Virginia’s other veterans to score the ball.
“Again, I said it after Florida State,” Bennett said. “Alright, you hit some adversity. We’re gonna grow from it and be ready to practice on Monday and be ready to play on Wednesday.”
The Cavaliers hope to bounce back as they return to Charlottesville against NC State Wednesday night. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. and the game will be televised on the ACC Network.