ACC Basketball

Duke Drops Bombs In Victory Over Cavs

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I ain’t going to lie…I thought the Duke Blue Devils were toast. The score was 45-34, with a little over 10 minutes left to play.The Virginia Cavaliers were owning the second half (20-8) and had actually been beating Duke 32-12 over the last 16 minutes. Jay Bilas was telling me that a nine-point deficit to Virginia is like 19 against anyone else and when had Jay Bilas ever lied to me?

After allowing some fast break points to start the game, Virginia’s vaunted D was beating Duke’s offense like a baby seal. Jahlil Okafor had more turnovers (5) than points (4) and Duke was 0-9 from deep. On offense, the Cavaliers were having little problem working the ball inside and when Coach K switched to the 2-3 zone, Virginia seemed to relish it, easily working the ball inside or hitting open threes. At one point I watched Grayson Allen, who is not ready for primetime yet, falling over himself to guard (eventually fouling) Justin Anderson and I thought to myself, “is it too late to switch over to some Golden Girls rerun?”

The fact is, this year’s Duke squad had yet to show it had the moxie to rally when things were going south. I’ve watch close games turn into routes against NC State and Miami right around the same time in the second half of those games. Plus, they weren’t playing the those teams, they were facing the #2 team in the nation.

Yet, suddenly Duke’s basket got huge and Virginia’s defense got softer than Axel Rose in a fist fight. Starting at the 9:39 mark, the Devils hit five straight shots, beginning with a three by rookie Tyus Jones (The 2014 version of Tyler Ennis). In fact, they would hit six of their next seven and five different players (T. Jones, Winslow, Cook, Okafor and M. Jones) put the ball through the basket.

How good did things go for Duke at the end? They scored on 14 of their last 15 possessions (outscoring Virginia 35-18). They missed only three shots, two of which were rebounded by the offense, giving them a second chance that they hit on. The only possession Duke didn’t score on was the one where Justice Winslow was T’d up for grabbing Justin Anderson’s leg. They hit six of eight threes during that stretch, including threes by Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones that proved to be the final nails in the coffin.

As for Virginia, for a hot 20 minutes or so they looked like the only team in America that could compete with Kentucky. On defense, because they were so focused on shutting down Okafor in the paint (plus Duke was shooting so bad from deep), it looked like they were caving in more than usual, which meant their run outs were less effective when the Blue Devils starting hitting those outside shots.

Offensively, Cavaliers presented a lot of match up problems for Duke, or rather…should have. Not only were they the more athletic team, but they are also bigger at every position but inside. Yet, they took advantage of those advantages very little. I saw a lot of jumpers early and against the 2-3 zone, not enough movement and sliding when the ball went inside. It’s like, once the ball was at the free throw line in the middle of that zone, there was a lot of looking around.

Also, towards the end when the game was still tied with two minutes to go, I can’t understand why Mike Tobey is taking the last two shots. He struggled to put the ball in the hole all game (3-10). If Justin Anderson or Malcolm Brogdon want to be stars, the ball needs to be in their hands at the end.

Anyhow, good win for Duke. Despite some of the bad loses on their resume, this is a team that has signature wins at Wisconsin, at Louisville and now at Virginia. Most teams would be happy to have one win against those three on the road. The Devils walk away from the toughest portion of their schedule going 2-1 (suffering only a four-point loss to Notre Dame).

As for Virginia, you never want to lose at home, especially when you let a win slip away the way they did. It’s not the way Tony Bennett wanted to start a rough stretch. Next up is a trip to Chapel Hill (where one team will walk away with a two-game losing streak) and then back home against Louisville.

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  1. Pingback: The Morning After… – ACC Basketball

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