Duke could not find their groove against a Virginia squad that boasts one of the nation’s stingiest defenses, falling 73-68 for the Blue Devils’ fourth loss of the season.
Here’s your postgame recap:
Revisiting the three keys to the game:
- Setting the pace: Duke could not get off to a fast start—in fact, they couldn’t get started at all. The Blue Devils started the contest in an early 9-0 hole after the team ended its first seven possessions in six missed shots and a turnover in just four minutes of action.
- Not your average Joe: Joe Harris was phenomenal. The junior guard made all the difference for the Cavaliers with 36 points and seven rebounds on the evening. The Duke defense simply could not get a handle on him as he twisted and squirmed his way to the basket, scoring bucket after bucket. As predicted before the game, Harris was a difference-maker for Virginia.
- Balanced attack: There was no offensive balance in Duke’s attack today, with Seth Curry and Quinn Cook combining to score 50 of the team’s 68 points. The offensive flow just wasn’t there for most of the contest. Virginia’s pressure defense doubled the ball in the post, but Mason Plumlee and Josh Hairston were unable to make crisp crosscourt passes to open shooters. The inside-out game has fueled the Blue Devils in their previous two victories, but was virtually non-existent tonight.
Three key plays:
- 17:59, first half. With Duke having already missed their first three shots, Cook found Hairston free at the perimeter, but the junior forward traveled. Already trailing 5-0, the turnover cost the Blue Devils an opportunity to get on the board and stop Virginia’s early momentum. The Cavaliers stretched their lead to 9-0 before Duke scored its first points.
- 4:11, first half. Duke had managed to claw back to within one when Tyler Thornton stole the ball from Virginia and gave the Blue Devils an opportunity to take their first lead of the contest. But Rasheed Sulaimon turned the ball over again and Virginia was able to maintain momentum and hold a lead heading into halftime.
- 18:45, second half. Duke was starting to get some momentum going when Seth Curry hit a 3-pointer early in the second half, but he was rejected by Joe Harris on Duke’s next trip down the floor. Harris got the block and scooped the ball, eventually cleaning up his own miss on the other end to increase the Cavalier lead to six but more importantly get a huge momentum swing.
Three key stats:
- Duke’s 2 offensive rebounds. Duke failed to crash the boards against a smaller Virginia lineup and never gave itself a chance to create second-chance points. On the other end of the floor, Virginia grabbed nine offensive rebounds en route to 18 second-chance points in the contest.
- Rasheed Sulaimon shoots 2-for-10. The freshman guard was not able to provide Duke with the spark it needed, managing just a 2-for-10 from the field , including 0-for-5 from beyond the arc. He also had three turovers and four fouls after turning in back-to-back stellar performances in the Blue Devils’ previous wins.
- Virginia’s 33 rebounds. Duke has had issues when squaring off with the ACC’s top big men like Richard Howell, C.J. Leslie and Alex Len, but has rarely had issues rebounding against a team that played just five minutes of the game with a player larger than 6-foot-8. This was exactly the case against Virginia tonight, with the Cavaliers holding a 36-25 advantage on the boards despite sporting a smaller lineup. Akil Mitchell led the way for Virginia, pulling down a game-high 12 rebounds to go along with his 19 points.
And the Duke game ball goes to… Seth Curry. Curry led the Blue Devils with 28 points on the evening, knocking down 7-of-14 attempts from the field and going 10-for-12 from the line. He kept Duke alive in the final minutes as it attempts to make a comeback, knocking down shots and drawing fouls to get to the line. He seemed to be one of the only Blue Devils to play inspired basketball down the stretch.
And the Virginia game ball goes to… Joe Harris. No question. One of the best performances against Duke you will see this season. Harris showed up with his A-game up against the nation’s third-ranked team and could not be stopped. He was supported very well by big man Akil Mitchell, both creating space for each other and wreaking havoc on the Blue Devil defense. Harris came away with a career-high 36 points and was the best player on court tonight.