Say what you will about the season for the Blue Devils in 2021, they’ve face more than their fair share of adversity but have continued to fight, learn and progress. Coming off of two wins in a row against NC State and Wake Forest the Blue Devils had an opportunity for a much needed win against a ranked opponent – no offense to either team but Virginia is a different animal altogether. The 7th ranked Wahoos entered Cameron Indoor Stadium and the odds on favorite but the Value Devils had other plans. In a game that saw no team extend a lead beyond 6 points the two teams delivered a classic punch for punch fight that was both physical and pretty at times. The pretty came in the shooters duel between Matthew Hurt from Duke who scored a game high 22 points on 8-13 shooting and Sam Hauser of Virginia who scored 19 on 7-11 shooting.
The ugly was the physical play ( not dirty ) by both teams that saw Wendell Moore need to be helped to the sideline after a hard screen by Jay Huff, also saw Casey Morsell take an elbow to the face by Wendell Moore that resulted in a cut below his eye. The teams went blow for blow on the scoreboard both teams hitting timely shots and both responding in kind. For the young Blue Devils several keys to the game needed to be addressed and in each case the Blue Devils addressed and exceeded them.
1. Duke changed the way they defended ball screens before the last game and it paid dividends but in this game they went back to switching 1-5 utilizing the versatility of Jaemyn Brakefield who was able to both stay with Virginia guards and also to guard Jeff Huff somewhat effectively. Brakefield was also able to contribute offensively, saving Duke in the early going with his scoring, ending with 11 points and blocking 4 shots.
2. Duke needed to cut down on turnovers as they have in the last couple of games – against a team like Virginia who slows the game down possessions are that much more critical. The Blue Devils turned the ball over 10 times to 13 by the Cavaliers.
3. Duke needed to clamp down on Sam Hauser – well that one didn’t go as well but Duke was able to counter with the play of their own version of Hauser in Matthew Hurt.
4. Win the hustle plays. Duke got contributions from players like Henry Coleman who’s had Duke’s only 2 offensive rebounds that he converted into 4 points in 5 minutes of play and Wendell Moore Jr. who led the Blue Devils in assists with 7 and grabbed 5 boards to go with his 4 points.
The young Blue Devils were poised and even in the waning moments down 3 points were able to fight back, lock up defensively and hold the Cavaliers scoreless for the last 3 minutes of the game.