The Duke Blue Devils (15-2, 4-1) welcomed the undefeated Virginia Cavaliers (16-1, 4-1) into Cameron Indoor Stadium and rebounded after being upset at home by the Syracuse Orange earlier this week, and won a back and forth game 72-70. Led by star freshmen Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett, Duke was able to hand Virginia their first loss of the season. Barrett led the way with 30 points and five rebounds on 11-19 shooting. Williamson continued his stellar freshman campaign with 27 points and 9 rebounds on 10-16 shooting, and one of his trademark slams in the first half. Virginia guard DeAndre Hunter lead the way for the Cavaliers with 18 points on 8-14 shooting, followed Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy who both put up 14 points. With this win, Duke moved to 5-1 in the season against ranked teams and 4-1 against the ACC. Here are some takeaways from Duke’s big victory.
Duke still needs Tre Jones
Duke’s freshman point guard sat out this game after suffering a shoulder injury against Syracuse earlier in the week. Although they were able to get a victory over a great Virginia team, they did so needing two big time, near-perfect performances from Barrett and Williamson. Duke as a team had 6 assists. This season, Tre Jones averages 5.7 assists per game, which leads the ACC. Jones also averages 2.1 steals per game, which is fourth in the conference. At times, the Duke offense looked very isolation heavy, which could be their downfall when games get close later in the season, especially if Barrett and Williamson have an off night. Jones is the engine that makes this offense go, and quite possibly Duke’s best on-ball defender, so they are going to need to get him back healthy as quickly as possible.
Williamson and Barrett are the best players in the ACC
Duke defeated Virginia simply because Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett were the two best players on the court. Duke’s Cam Reddish and Virginia’s DeAndre Hunter, Ty Jerome, and Kyle Guy are all really good players, but it was clear Williamson and Barrett were in a class above. Going for a combined 57 points, Williamson and Barrett scored more than 75% of Duke’s points. Duke shot a worse field goal percentage, three point percentage, and free throw percentage, and none of that mattered because Williamson and Barrett put the team on their back and took over the game.
Virginia is still good
Although they suffered their first loss of the season, the Virginia Cavaliers are still a national title contender. Guards DeAndre Hunter, Kyle Guy, and Ty Jerome all had big games, and UVA got contributions from their bench, getting 20 minutes and 11 points from Braxton Key. Playing in Cameron Indoor Stadium is tough, let alone winning, and when Duke visits Tony Bennett and his Virginia team in Charlottesville in a couple weeks, the game might be a different story.
Duke needs to hit their foul shots
Duke shot 58.1% off the line against Virginia and is shooting 67% on the season. In March, games are often decided on the free throw line and when none of Duke’s four best players are topping 70% on the season, that could be a problem late in games. Duke needs to improve their foul shooting in order to decrease their margin of error in big games down the stretch.
Duke travels to Pittsburgh on Tuesday night to play the Pittsburgh Panthers (12-6, 2-3) and rounds out the week with a home game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (10-8, 2-3). Duke will head to Charlottesville for the rematch against Virginia on February 9th.