It is always a highly anticipated matchup when Virginia and Duke face off, but it was even more so because the #7 ranked Blue Devils entered the night one game ahead of the Hoos in the ACC standings as the regular season winds down.
Braxton Key scored the game’s first bucket about two minutes in, and then Duke’s Vernon Carey quickly answered with a three pointer. The teams continued to trade baskets for the entire first half, with the largest lead reaching 6 points when UVA lead 9-3. Duke used full court pressure to try and take the ball out of Kihei Clark’s hands, so players like Tomas Woldetensae, Casey Morsell, and Braxton Key had to take turns bringing the ball up and starting the offense.
UVA only attempted 10 three pointers in the entire game, shooting 30% from beyond the arc. Players like Braxton Key and Jay Huff frequently pump faked and drove to the hoop instead of settling for the outside shot. Braxton Key finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds and primarily by making tough layups. Jay Huff is generally pretty likely to take an open three, and there was a play with 5:09 left in the first half where he passed up a great look at the top of the key. However, he powered to the hoop and threw down a tremendous dunk against multiple Duke defenders that sent the crowd into a frenzy. On the other end of the court, he blocked a shot, and then a few minutes later he threw down an alley-oop from Kihei Clark, so John Paul Jones Arena erupted as Coach Mike Krzyzewski called a timeout. Jay Huff finished with 15 points, 9 rebounds, and an astonishing 10 blocks, so he was just one rebound short of a less traditional triple-double. At halftime, the score was tied 25-25.
The second half was also a tightly contested battle, with the largest lead being when Duke was winning 35-28. Duke regularly passed the ball into Vernon Carey when he wasn’t sitting on the bench with foul trouble. Carey finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and a double team by UVA was often needed to slow him down. Tre Jones (17 points) finished 3-5 from three point territory and scored Duke’s final five points. On UVA’s side, the main scoring down the stretch came from Key, Huff, and Mamadi Diakite (14 points). After a Tre Jones three made it 48-47 Duke with 2:52 remaining, the teams traded one point leads. Mamadi Diakite made a go-ahead shot with 39 seconds left to put UVA up 51-50.
Both Braxton Key and Jay Huff missed the front end of a one-and-one situation with the Hoos clinging to this one point lead, giving Duke three chances to take the lead. It appeared as though Duke was going to score when Vernon Carey caught the ball deep in the post with 4 seconds remaining because he had been so successful there all game. However, Jay Huff had other ideas, and his tenth block was by far the most critical as he denied the shot. After collecting the rebound and getting fouled, Huff made one free throw. Tre Jones had 3 seconds to hit a buzzer beater but was unable to convert and UVA came away with the huge win.
UVA is now tied with Duke in the ACC standings at 13-5 but above them in head-to-head because this was the only matchup of the season. Additionally, Louisville and Florida State are just one game ahead (14-4). UVA has two regular season games remaining: Miami on March 4th and Louisville on March 7th, so they are still in the running for the ACC regular season championship!
Article recap by Kathleen Boyce
Video recap by Matt Newton
Photography: Jack Mulquin
Select footage courtesy of ESPN