Duke Edges Virginia 61-58

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Duke was on a mission against UVA-to prove that it was a team who had conquered the lingering questions about its toughness, its chemistry and its defense. In winning Duke proved none of this but Virgina proved that it was worthy of its lofty ranking. Virginia gave Duke all it could handle and came within a few possessions from pulling out a win at Cameron.

The first half saw Virginia controlling the tempo while Duke’s offense was stagnant  and seemingly confused. When Coach K called the Virginia defense “beautiful” it was easy to see what he meant. UVA’s defense does not get rattled and while not an offensive juggenaugt, UVA got Duke to play their way and only perfect basketball was going to allow Duke to escape the half with a lead. That did not happen. Duke was, however, able to right the ship, shore up it’s own defense and correct the mistakes on offense. Eventually Dukes second half run began to wear down the Cavaliers but a Tony Bennett team does not quit and Dukes penchant for empty trips on offense breathed life into the Cavs and they came within one shot of pushing the game into overtime.

Mike Scott put on a show in front of the crazies scoring a game high 23 points and pulling down 9 boards, unfortunately for the Cavs they could not get much balance on offense although Joe Harris showed some spark scoring 14 on the Devils. The player that UVA needed to show up was senior guard Sammy Zeglinski but Duke did a great job of shutting he and Jontel Evens down. The guards went a combined 0-14.

Duke while not putting on any kind of offensive show was balanced on offense spreading the ball around with Mason Plumlee pacing the Devils with 12 points and  7 boards. Once again Mason was aggressive and strong with the ball but managed only to go 2-8 from the line. Mason was a good free throw performance away from being a 20 point scorer, and would probably be leading the ACC in scoring if he were more adept from the charity stripe.

Duke also got good effort on offense from Seth Curry who score 11, and Austin Rivers who also scored 11 despite mostly being swallowed up by UVA’s suffocating defense. Andre Dawkins hit a couple of 3 pt bombs off of the bench on the way to a 10 point performance,  but where Coach K appreciated Dawkins the most was on the defensive end saying, it was “by far the best defensive game that Andre Dawkins has ever played”. What really spurred Dukes run beginning in the second half was that stout defense that Coach K referred to, it allowed Duke to get out and run and in turn created a more Duke style tempo. Unfortunately, for Duke, the lead dwindled – with inefficiency on offense and a lack of rebounding once again being the culprit. The Cavaliers outrebounded Duke 35-30, and despite losing had more assists that Duke. This lack of execution by Duke kept the game within reach.  In the end the Cavaliers had two looks at a 3 to send the game into OT, but couldn’t knock them down.

My take on UVA is that they are for real and I am impressed. I had heard the talk but hadn’t had the chance to see a full game. Their defense is probably one of if not the toughest in the nation. They may be an offensive player away from being GREAT but they were a Zeglinski away from beating Duke.  They have some fearless and smart players who clearly have bought into what Coach Bennett is saying and preaching. They do not get rattled, their body language never seems to change. Mike Scott I still believe could end up being ACC POY, and once the offense catches up to the defense this team could be dangerous for anyone.

What Duke takes away from this game is obviously they still are not where they need to be offensively or defensively. The effort is there, but there are still a lot of what I like to call bone-head plays. Missed assignments on defense. Resulting in open layups for teams. Duke was able to put it together in spurts and as long as those spurts become longer and longer this team may have something. Shot selection seems to be a bit of an issue, Duke was 5-20 from three point range but a nice chunk of those 3’s were missed badly and taken at times in the game where they weren’t needed and better offensive options were available. What this team can hope and shoot for is really using these ACC wars to prepare for a tourney run as Duke is going to be tested in-conference. There are going to be some games where these issues catch up to Duke as they did in the Temple game and as they did in the Ohio State game.

Next up for Duke is Clemson on the road on Sunday January 15th.

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