Virginia has a way of taking teams out of their comfort zones with its smothering defense, and it was more of the same against Duke, as the Cavaliers escaped Durham with a 65-63 win.
Blue Devils freshman Marvin Bagley III hit a three to pull the Blue Devils to within two, 63-61, with seven seconds remaining, but Kyle Guy knocked down a pair of free throws to seal the win.
Duke (18-3, 6-3) scored more points against Virginia (20-1, 9-0) than the last 11 opponents the Cavaliers have faced. But a crucial turnover, one of 16, by the Blue Devils with 54 seconds remaining was the final dagger. Ty Jerome stole a Trevon Duval pass, with the Devils down two, and then knocked down a three with 39 seconds remaining to give No. 2 UVA a five-point lead. Duke turned the ball over again nine seconds later, giving the ball back to UVA, all but sealing the deal.
Down two with the ball, Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski would have preferred Duval run a set play instead of forcing the ball up the floor.
“It’s a mistake of commission, not omission,” Krzyzewski said. “It has to be completed or you run halfcourt offense. It was a big play, but that didn’t lose the game for us. We missed some free throws and they got some big offensive rebounds.”
Duke started the second half hitting three of their first four shots to make it a six-point game. A 10-2 run allowed the Blue Devils to tie the game at 39 after five straight from Wendell Carter Jr. Moments later Bagley laid the ball in to give Duke its first lead, 41-39, of the second half. Virginia briefly retook the lead after a layup by Jack Salt, but Grayson Allen completed an old-fashioned three-point play on the other end, putting the Blue Devils up two, 44-42.
The two teams exchanged the lead until Bagley tied the game again, this time at 53 after a putback of his own miss.
In the first 20 minutes Virginia showed why it is the best defensive team in the nation, holding Duke to 22 points, with the Blue Devils shooting 37 percent from the floor. The Blue Devils also turned the ball over seven times, two of those turnovers coming on routine entry passes to the post. The Cavaliers took advantage of Duke’s miscues, scoring nine points off turnovers in the first half.
“Our guys hadn’t been in a game like that, and it showed in the first half,” Krzyzewski said. “They made us not play well and the level of intensity and the high level of defense and offense that they play, I thought knocked us back. In the second half I thought we played really well. All this stuff is a big learning experience for these guys.”
After the Blue Devils jumped out to an early 6-3 lead, UVA went on a 9-0 run to take the lead and never trailed the rest of the half. The Wahoos led by many as 12, but Duke managed to cut it to 10 at the break after a dunk by Carter made it 32-22. The 22 points in a half were the fewest for the Blue Devils this season. UVA shot 44 percent in the first half, and had a stretch in the first half when 10 of 13 points came from layups.
Bagley had his sixth 30-point game, finishing with 30 points against the Cavs, to go along with 14 rebounds. Carter added 14 points and 15 rebounds. Bagley, Gary Trent Jr. (8 points) and Allen (5 points) each played all 40 minutes of the game. Duval and Carter each played 37 minutes.
“I thought we got worn out playing defense in the first half and it affected us offensively,” Krzyzewski said.
Four different Cavs scored in double digits, led by Guy (17). Devon Hall added 14, while Jerome finished with 13 and De’Andre Hunter added 12.
UVA came into the game winless in its last 17 games in Durham, and having gone 1-4 in its last five games against the Blue Devils. The win was UVA head coach Tony Bennett’s first in Cameron Indoor Stadium.