Virginia men’s basketball hosted Duke as an unranked opponent for the first time in 27 years Saturday, and the No. 8 Cavaliers (19-4, 11-3 ACC) showed just why they were the top-25 squad in this one. The Blue Devils (17-8, 8-6 ACC) gave Virginia a scare but ultimately ran out of gas in overtime.
Defense brought this one home for the Cavaliers, as the hosts forced 22 Duke turnovers while committing only nine themselves. Saturday marked the 39th consecutive game at John Paul Jones Arena in which Virginia has held an ACC opponent under 70 points, and Coach Tony Bennett attributed much of his team’s exploits to the home crowd.
“It was wild in here, and we love that,” Coach Tony Bennett said. “Guys locked in, guarding the ball well, active with the hands … it was a lively atmosphere for sure.”
But it was not a perfect Virginia performance by any means. The Cavaliers endured a brutal night at the charity stripe, connecting on just nine of their 22 attempts for a season-low 40.9 percent clip.
“Stuff like that can happen,” graduate student forward Ben Vander Plas said. “You just have to keep pushing through, you have to be able to control your effort on the defensive end and just keep doing everything else.”
Vander Plas led the charge in everything else, scoring 13 points while snaring a career-high four steals. Many of the graduate student’s swipes came at the hands of Duke freshman center Kyle Filipowski, one of the ACC’s most polarizing freshmen who was held without a single point Saturday.
“I don’t think [Filipowski] got too many clean looks,” Bennett said. “We just tried to play as hard as we can and made him earn his looks.”
Virginia’s use of a committee to stifle Duke’s frontcourt worked phenomenally throughout, as the Cavaliers forced five Filipowski turnovers. Vander Plas and graduate student forward Jayden Gardner started the game, but freshman guard Ryan Dunn and redshirt senior student center Francisco Caffaro saw ample minutes as well.
However, even with some of the best interior defense Virginia had put on display all season, the Blue Devils managed to give the Cavaliers a handful of problems in other areas.
Those problems primarily arose from junior guard Jeremy Roach and freshman guard Tyrese Proctor, who combined for 20 of Duke’s 27 first-half points and four of its three-pointers. The less-appreciated Blue Devils duo helped the visitors build an early lead that later expanded to as many as seven after back-to-back Proctor triples with 9:38 remaining.
But Virginia did not back down. A barrage of early buckets from inside the arc kept the Cavaliers within striking distance, and when they inevitably sorted out the cracks Duke was finding in their defense, it was time for takeoff.
From that 9:38 mark until the halftime buzzer, Virginia outscored the Blue Devils 12-7 to cut the deficit to two at the break. Having failed to knock down a single triple in the first half, the Cavaliers would have been entirely comfortable with the scoreline knowing the long-range floodgates would soon open up.
And that’s precisely what played out. Virginia poured in 17 points within the first 7:15 of the final period, nine of which came from beyond the arc. Graduate student guard Kihei Clark sandwiched a trey in between a pair of triples from senior guard Armaan Franklin, and the Cavaliers suddenly had the lead.
But despite hitting a new gear on offense, Duke was finding similar success to neutralize Virginia’s explosion. This time, the Blue Devils were led by freshman forward Dariq Whitehead and graduate student guard Jacob Grandison.
Grandison sank a pair of pivotal three-pointers during a stretch largely dominated by the Cavaliers, while also adding a layup that put Duke back on top 41-40 with 13:07 to play. From there, Whitehead took hold of the reins.
The freshman showed a smooth jumper to swish consecutive three-pointers before heading to the interior for four more points. All in all, Whitehead’s efforts spurred the Blue Devils into a 51-46 advantage as the clock ticked under 10 minutes.
Back behind, Virginia made sure that was not the case for long. The Cavaliers reasserted their presence on the inside, scoring their next 12 points inside the paint while bringing Duke’s offensive power to a relative halt. All in all, it was a 12-2 Virginia run spanning nearly eight minutes of action, and the Cavaliers now led 58-53 with 1:41 remaining.
The Blue Devils finally responded with five unanswered points, including a Grandison three-pointer that tied the game at 58 with just 50 seconds to play. Duke got a stop on the ensuing Virginia possession, but junior guard Reece Beekman heroically stuffed Filipowski at the rim on what would have been the game-winning shot.
Initially, a foul was called on Dunn that would have sent Filipowski to the line for two free throws. However, after an official review, the foul was waved off under the pretense that it occurred after time had expired. The ACC later announced the reversal had been an error.
“The play should have resulted in two free throws for Duke,” the ACC said.
ACC officials confirmed that the missed call was discussed with both teams and the officials — the matter is now closed.
Despite the apparent miscall that could have resulted in a Virginia loss, the contest was headed for overtime and the Cavaliers proved to be the more resilient team in the extra five minutes, holding the Blue Devils to only four points. Key free throws from Vander Plas and a clutch corner triple from Franklin were enough to wither away all doubt, and Virginia earned a signature win.
Franklin paced all scorers with 23 points, while Clark chipped in with 16. Roach, Proctor, Grandison and Whitehead all scored in double figures for Duke.
“We have a lot of things we can keep improving on,” Vander Plas said. “I’m excited to keep going forward.”
With the victory, Virginia moves into a two-way tie with Pittsburgh for the top spot in the ACC. The Cavaliers will need the Panthers to drop one of their final six games in order to claim sole rights to the regular season title, but if things fall their way, fans can be sure Bennett’s squad will be ready to pounce on the opportunity.
Virginia returns to action Wednesday night for a matchup against Louisville. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. and is set to be streamed on ESPNU.