CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Instant Analysis: Duke 68, Virginia 73
How it happened: Virginia cruised to a five-point victory that was nowhere near as close as the final would indicate on Thursday night for their first win over Duke in more than six years. UVa socked the Blue Devils in the mouth with a 9-0 run to open the game and barely looked back thanks to junior Joe Harris’ career-high 36 points. Akil Mitchell chipped in 19 points and 12 rebounds and hounded Duke star Mason Plumlee all night, keeping the senior largely in check with the help of a constant stream of quick double teams.
Solidly on the bubble with six games left in the regular season, Virginia needed to finish no worse than 4-2 to have a good shot at the NCAA tournament – those two losses presumed to be against top-five opponents Miami and Duke. By playing the Hurricanes close until the final seconds and flabbergasting Coach K’s crew tonight, the Cavaliers likely won’t have to sweat come Selection Sunday.
Catching fire: Harris, UVa’s leading scorer all season, shattered his previous career-high of 27, finished with 36 points when he fouled out with just 40 seconds left. As the numbers would indicate he accounted for almost the entirety of Virginia’s offensive output at times, and as a result, when he went cold halfway through the first half, the Cavs stopped scoring. That never came back to haunt the home team however, as Akil Mitchell added just about all the support Harris ended up needing.
Something smells...Foul: Duke had far too many, even when it looked like Virgina’s defensive aggression would be their undoing. Guard Tyler Thornton fouled out of the game with several minutes to play, and multiple Blue Devils were in foul trouble for much of the second half. The low-point came when Rasheed Sulaimon earned a technical foul five minutes into the second half, enraging the home crowd and allowing Harris to pad his point total with an easy trip to the charity stripe.
And all through the house: Not a Plumlee was stirring. Duke’s future lottery pick and All-America candidate sputtered out of the gate, failing to record a field goal until 17 minutes into the game. He finished with a disappointing 10 points and seven rebounds, often disappearing in the face of immediate double teams from Justin Anderson, Evan Nolte, and company.
What happens next: Virginia travels to Boston College on March 3, then finishes with very winnable games at Florida State and against Maryland. Duke must regroup quickly and ready themselves for Miami on Saturday.