The Virginia Cavaliers (17-11, 11-7) fell short to the No. 7 Duke Blue Devils (24-4, 14-3) in a back-and-forth showdown at John Paul Jones Arena, 65-61. Prior to tipoff, UVA Head Coach Tony Bennett recognized the Blue Devils legendary Coach Mike Krzyzewski by commemorating him and his career in classy fashion.
“I want to take this opportunity, because this is important for me and our team and the rest of us, to acknowledge your monumental contributions to the basketball world,” Bennett said. “Mainly, our game in college basketball. Your success is remarkable, and you stood the test of time.” The two ACC coaches embraced ahead of the initial jump ball.
The intensity from the Virginia crowd was palpable from the opening moments and played a factor throughout the course of the game. Both defenses came out to play early and stifled the offenses. Midway through the first half, however, Virginia went on a 9-0 run led by Senior guard Kihei Clark, who had an exceptional night. Clark scored 18 of the Cavaliers’ 25 first half points. He finished with 25 points, 7 assists, and 6 boards.
Duke was able to close the first half on a 12-3 run and lead 30-25 at the end of the first half. The Blue Devils were led by Jeremy Roach and his seven first half points. Paolo Banchero, a projected NBA lottery pick, was quiet offensively for the majority of the night, thanks in part to a great defensive effort by UVA’s Jayden Gardner.
The second half continued to seesaw, as both teams traded blows like two heavyweight contenders, much like their first matchup on February 7th. “Just like the last game could’ve been ours, this game could’ve been theirs”, Coach K said after the game.
The theme of the second half was both teams making their own respective runs, but neither being able to create much separation in what turned out to be an exciting outing.
Down the stretch, Virginia was kept alive by the efforts of Jayden Gardner, who came alive after a quiet offensive first half, and the shot-making repertoire of second-year guard Reece Beekman. Despite their efforts, the Cavaliers were no match for the Blue Devils, as A.J. Griffin put the game away with his 10 points in the final 3:39 of the game.
The Cavaliers will look to redeem themselves against Florida State (14-13, 7-10) on February 26th at 4 P.M. at JPJ. After their loss to Duke, Virginia is 5-2 in their last 7 games and will look to finish strong to make a run at the NCAA tournament. “Let’s learn from maybe some areas where we were a little loose… playing Florida State, let’s tighten the screws and learn from this game,” said Tony Bennett.