Behind Joe Harris’ 36 points, Virginia beat No. 3 Duke 73-66 last night in Charlottesville without trailing the entire game. The Blue Devils were dominated in the post, getting outrebounded 33-21 by the Cavaliers.
The Chronicle’s sports editor Andrew Beaton and basketball beat writer Brady Buck sat down to discuss the game and Saturday’s upcoming contest against No. 5 Miami.
Andrew Beaton: Brady, there was complaining about the refs… controversy about the court storming… Joe Harris’ 36 points… what really happened last night?
Brady Buck: Joe Harris happened, and it was just one of those nights for Duke as it still remains winless on the road against teams in the top half of the ACC. In a questionably called game and behind an electric home crowd, Harris—who finished with 36 points, an ACC-high for the year—essentially punched Virginia’s ticket to the Big Dance and his spot on the All-ACC First Team.
For Duke, its frontcourt did not show up in Charlottesville. Amile Jefferson and Josh Hairston have to provide more production than a combined two points and two rebounds. That’s just not going to cut it against anybody, and Krzyzewski touched on that in his post-game press conference.
And ‘Drew, what happened with ‘Sheed last night? I’ve never seen that kind of body language from him.
AB: You know, I think there can be good technical fouls and bad technical fouls, and when ‘Sheed picked up the first tech of his collegiate career midway through the second half, it was a bad one.
The Blue Devils needed something to light a fire under them, but that wasn’t an excited or pump-up tech. It was more of a frustrated one where Duke already seemed resigned to its fate of losing. The only guy it really seemed to pump up was Coach K, who lashed his tongue even more at the refs.
It’s just so frustrating for ‘Sheed who had scored 18.3 points in his last four games while playing stellar defense to get pushed around like that by Harris. The problem for him is that the matchups don’t get any easier this weekend against Miami.
BB: In his post-game press conference, one quote from Krzyzewski really struck me: ”It was a very, very physical game and we’re not equipped to that type of game. We got knocked back.”
This is pretty alarming, in addition to being the cold hard truth. Away from Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Blue Devils have struggled considerably in physical games (e.g. at Maryland, at Boston College and at Virginia). Slow starts don’t help the cause either in hostile arenas.
Cavalier head coach Tony Bennett and his squad deserve a lot of credit too. I thought their game plan was brilliant. In particular, Virginia’s interior defense was excellent all night—they out-rebounded Duke 33-21 and blocked six shots.
AB: The good news for Duke is there are no “road” games in postseason play, just neutral site games. And the Blue Devils are 6-0 in those this season, notably beating Kentucky in Atlanta and VCU, Minnesota and Louisville in the Battle 4 Atlantis. So, they might not be road warriors this season, but they’re not too attached to home either.
And road woes are the last thing they have to focus on right now—at least for the next day—with Miami coming to town tomorrow. What do the Blue Devils have to do to beat a team that beat them by 27 points earlier in the season?
BB: I think it starts on the defensive end. Duke needs to prevent the Hurricanes from getting into an sort of scoring rhythm and keeping them off the boards is a must. Miami’s highest scoring output in a loss? 65 points at Wake Forest.
Individually, Mason Plumlee has to deliver for Duke against a big, experienced and athletic Miami frontcourt, especially given the limitations and inconsistencies of Jefferson and Hairston.
Offensively, hitting shots beyond the arc is a key ingredient for a victory. The Blue Devils were a paltry 4-of-23 from downtown in Coral Gabes last month, and Curry was scoreless.
And a healthy Ryan Kelly to guard the versatile Kenny Kadji wouldn’t hurt either.
AB: The most interesting part is: Nobody knows whether or not Kelly will play Saturday.
On the one hand, Kelly said he likely wasn’t going to return until the Virginia Tech game or the UNC road game, the final two games of the regular season. On the other hand, he dressed and warmed up with the team against Virginia, seemingly the last step before coming back.
This mind game is just some classic gamesmanship by Coach K, especially after what happened in Coral Gables. If you recall, it seemed like a certainty Reggie Johnson was going to be out, considering he hadn’t practiced for more than a month with a thumb injury. Then, all of a sudden, he’s active and playing. He wasn’t too effective in the game, but it’s definitely something that can rattle an opponent, especially because the last time Duke had seen Johnson, he dropped 27 points in an upset win at Cameron.