In their second matchup of the season, the second-ranked Duke Blue Devils (21-2, 9-1) completed the season sweep and handed the third-ranked Virginia Cavaliers (20-2, 8-2) their second loss on the season behind big performances from all four of their freshman standouts. With college basketball legends Grant Hill and Ralph Sampson, Rajon Rondo, and the best player on the planet LeBron James in the building, Duke’s offense might have had one of its best performances of the season behind a barrage of three pointers from RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish. Barrett poured in 26 points and seven rebounds on 8-15 shooting and 6-10 from three-point range. Barrett got hot early, draining five threes in the game’s first 12 minutes, allowing the Blue Devils to get to a lead they would never relinquish. Zion Williamson had a good all-around game with 18 points, five rebounds, five assists, and three blocks, including a mesmerizing block on Virginia’s DeAndre Hunter. Cam Reddish added on 17 points on 6-10 shooting and 5-8 from three. UVA guards Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy each poured in 16 points, leading the way for the Cavaliers. Here are some takeaways from Duke’s big win.
RJ Barrett is a Star
Zion Williamson has been the talk of the entire college basketball world from the moment he chose to attend Duke, but what is potentially lost in the Williamson hype is how good RJ Barrett is. In Duke’s two games against Virginia, Barrett has been Duke’s leading scorer, going for 30 and 26 respectively. People often forget that it was Barrett, not Williamson, who was the top ranked recruit out of high school. With Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett, the Duke Blue Devils potentially have the top two picks in next year’s NBA Draft and potentially the two most talented players in all of college basketball.
Live by the three
After going just 2-14 from three in their first matchup, Duke was red-hot from deep against Virginia. With Barrett and Reddish draining a combined 11 threes, Duke as a team shot 61.9% from downtown. When Duke is shooting threes at that clip, their offense is almost impossible to stop. After going just 2-14 from three in their first matchup, Duke was red-hot from deep against Virginia. As the saying goes, “you live by the three or you die by the three”, and Duke was living large against Virginia.
Williamson effective in a smaller role
In the presence of LeBron James, Zion Williamson took on a smaller role, but still put up 18 points on only eight shots. Williamson had a truly great all-around game, taking a back seat offensively to Barrett and Reddish, as they took the majority of the shots. In a Draymond Green-esque effort Williamson had five boards, five assists, three steals, and three blocks. Williamson drawing attention from defenses and becoming more of a facilitator, and making plays for his other star teammates is a dangerous notion for Duke’s opponents.
Duke is Virginia’s Achilles heel
Virginia has fallen back to one game back to North Carolina and Duke in the race for the ACC regular season title. Virginia knows that in the big picture, these two losses to Duke will not matter if they are able to turn this season into success in the NCAA Tournament, but it seems as if UVA has not been able to figure out how to combat this Duke team. Virginia has lost two completely different games to Duke, and in most part because of their lack of firepower to go up against Barrett and Williamson. DeAndre Hunter, Kyle Guy, and Ty Jerome are the leaders on one of America’s best college basketball teams, but I do not know if they can keep up with these young stars like Barrett and Williamson.
On Monday Virginia goes on the road to Chapel Hill to square up against the eighth ranked North Carolina Tar Heels (19-4, 9-1) and then round out the week with a game at home against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12-11, 2-8). Duke plays the sixteenth ranked Louisville Cardinals (17-7, 8-3) on the road and come back home to face North Carolina State (17-7, 5-8) on Saturday. Then on February 20th, the greatest rivalry in college basketball resumes when UNC visits Cameron Indoor Stadium to face off against the Blue Devils.