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Virginia basketball stuns no. 7 Duke 69-68 in an all-time classic at Cameron Indoor

With the game on the line, sophomore guard Reece Beekman drained a three-pointer from the corner to silence the Cameron Crazies and send the Blue Devils home with a loss.

<p>Sophomore guard Reece Beekman delivered the game-winning shot for the Cavaliers against the Blue Devils.</p>

Sophomore guard Reece Beekman delivered the game-winning shot for the Cavaliers against the Blue Devils.

Winning in Cameron Indoor Stadium is no small feat, and the 10-54 all-time Virginia record against Duke in their home venue proves it. However, thanks to a little magic from Reece Beekman, the Cavaliers (15-9, 9-5 ACC) did the impossible and knocked off the talented Blue Devils (19-4, 9-3 ACC) — a team who had beat then No. 1 Gonzaga and now No. 5 Kentucky. 

In Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski's final outing against the Cavaliers at Cameron Indoor, Coach Tony Bennett rallied the troops and bestowed Virginia fans one of the team’s wildest victories in years. 

“I think we certainly had a real solid game,” Bennett said. “We’re just trying to continue to improve and we got a lift from everyone.”

After gaining some momentum from a big win over Miami, the Cavaliers looked to play a David versus Goliath in a matchup of completely different programs. Duke — a “blue-blood” of college basketball with its talent-laden rosters and run-and-gun offense — faced off against Bennett’s system, which relies not on starpower, but on defensive strategy and offensive patience. 

In the beginning of the first half, the Cavaliers started off strong and enjoyed an early 8-2 lead  thanks to the strong play of junior guard Armaan Franklin and senior center Francisco Caffaro. Duke woke up, however, and strung together a few nice baskets en route to a seven-point run. Virginia stayed strong, and used the strong defensive play of Beekman and senior guard Kihei Clark to neutralize Duke’s talented backcourt. 

Things began to click for Virginia after senior guard Kody Stattman converted a layup to tie the ball-game at 17 apiece. Picking apart the Duke zone defense, senior forward Jayden Gardner had his way down low and scored three consecutive baskets to put the Cavaliers up by six. 

Despite answering with a three-pointer, the Blue Devils could not swing the pendulum of momentum and witnessed Virginia score nine straight points to extend the lead to 32-20. 

The Cavaliers took advantage of their opportunities in the frontcourt rather than relying on the three-pointer, while Duke seemed to miss most of its chances in the post. Freshman phenom Paolo Banchero — who only scored nine points in the loss — failed to convert on several point-blank shots in an uncharacteristic first half. 

In the blink of an eye, the Blue Devils roared back to within six. Junior forward Kadin Shedrick  stepped up and dominated the second half for the Cavaliers — stopping the bleeding with a layup at the 0:56 mark. Despite a three-pointer from Banchero to put the game within five, the Cavaliers seemed to remain in control of the game. 

Banchero also struggled against Gardner — not Virginia’s most potent defender — and received little to no help from his backcourt. 

Clinging to a tenuous lead, the Cavaliers kept pace with the Blue Devils in the early minutes of the second half. Gardner continued to poke away at the holes in the Duke zone, answering each of the Blue Devils’ first two baskets with two of his own. 

Duke’s sophomore center Mark Williams – a Virginia Beach native and an NBA prospect – subsequently imposed his will and tallied eight of his team’s first 10 points. Williams’ play allowed Duke to narrow the lead to 41-38 with just over 17 minutes remaining.

The Cavaliers would simply not fold in the lively arena. Every time the Blue Devils cashed in on a big play, Virginia answered to keep the score at five or six — a two-possession outcome and a favorable game plan for an underdog. 

At the 12-minute mark, however, freshman guard Trevor Keels scored a layup to bring the game within two points. A Shedrick dunk off of a feed from Clark put some worry away for a brief second, yet Keels cashed in on a three-pointer that nearly brought the house down.

Despite having called a frustrated timeout, Bennett’s team never let the magnitude of the moment get to them. Clark completed a cool jumper coming out of the timeout to put Virginia up five – a play that occurred after Shedrick’s highlight reel dunk over Banchero. The Clark and Shedrick show continued after a wild, almost half-court alley-oop that caught the Blue Devils completely off guard.

Virginia — having survived long enough to hold a 63-59 lead with 5:05 to play — fell short offensively just as Duke began to hit its stride from behind the arc. A brutal seven-point run left the game in jeopardy. 

The Cavaliers promptly responded with a Beekman layup to tie the game at 66. The layup was not an ordinary one, as the gritty Beekman stole the ball back from sophomore guard Jeremy Roach and earned a foul on top of the points. 

The last minute saw one of the greatest baskets in Cavalier history. Trailing 66-68 in the final minute, Virginia managed to force a turnover from Banchero and had one final chance to either send the game to overtime or win it outright. 

Gardner missed a close opportunity only to see Duke graduate forward Theo John grab the rebound with almost eight seconds to play. However, Clark made the savvy decision to fight for the ball and gave his team a jump-ball call with seven seconds remaining. From there, Beekman put the nail in the coffin with a triumphant three-pointer. An exclamation on a historic night for a hot Virginia team, the bucket sealed a 69-68 Cavalier victory. 

The Virginia squad grittiness and poise in one of college basketball’s harshest environments was a key aspect of the team’s performance. Clark and Shedrick demonstrated strong chemistry in the second half, while Gardner found the soft spots in the zone to finish the game with a game-high 17 points. 

Last but certainly not least, Beekman capped off a night to remember with a momentous steal and score and later, his immortalized three-pointer.

“You have a tendency sometimes to make this bigger than it is when you come in here because it’s an unbelievable atmosphere, you grow up watching it, you know how talented [Duke] is, Coach K, all that,” Bennett said. “But we just said be laser focused to start and play our game. Get it our kind of game if we can and battle.”

Returning to Charlottesville, the Cavaliers will hope to extend their three-game win streak against Georgia Tech on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m., and the game will be televised on ESPN2. 


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