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Duke Cuts Cavs Down In Charlottesville

Duke continues its recent domination of Virginia

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NCAA Basketball: Duke at Virginia
Feb 15, 2017; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Virginia Cavaliers guard Marial Shayok (4) shoots the ball over Duke Blue Devils forward Jayson Tatum (0) in the first half at John Paul Jones Arena. 
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

In the first half at Virginia, Duke struggled to find an offensive rhythm and scored just 21 points. Toss in foul trouble for Amile Jefferson and things looked grim going into the second half.

And then Jayson Tatum happened.

Tatum had seven points in the first half when Virginia managed to retard offense for every one in a Duke jersey.

In the second though he had 21. Tatum finished 8-13 and 6-7 from three point range. He was also 6-6 from the free throw line.

All in all, a very, very solid game by anyone, much less a rookie. If anyone still has questions about how good Tatum is, or if the hype was justified, this game should answer it: he’s for real.

Good timing on his part because Virginia’s defense, physical and intense as always, held the rest of the team to 11 made baskets out of 29 attempts (37.9%).

Three starters - Amile Jefferson, Matt Jones and Grayson Allen combined for just 14 points.

Luke Kennard scored 19 but hit just 3-9 from the floor (he hit 9-10 from the line however).

Duke got just seven points from the bench - five from Harry Giles and two from Frank Jackson - and ordinarily that would suggest a poor bench performance. We wouldn’t say so this time though.

Giles was the primary fill-in for Jefferson, who had three first-half fouls and picked up a fourth early in the second half.

Earlier in the season, he was irreplaceable and he’s still Duke’s best option inside. But Giles has come a long ways.

He didn’t just hold his own. Giles brought a new presence. He had back-to-back steals that Jefferson might not have pulled off, at least not while he’s still gimpy, and we’re not sure anyone else on the team could have either, frankly. They were tremendous.

He also scored a couple of baskets, including one which, again, no one else on the team could have done. On a pretty regular basis now we’re seeing more of what made him so special in high school. He’s been outgoing and energetic since he got back on the court; now his game and charisma are starting to match up. He’s coming on fast.

And for the second game in a row, Marques Bolden had an eye-opening block. Frank Jackson had a quieter game but was still fairly solid.

And it’s not like many people go full Tatum on the ‘Hoos.

As Jay Bilas pointed out, Duke began to slip the Cavaliers when it used a 1-2-2 zone press to burn some clock and keep them from getting into their rather leisurely half-court offense.

Usually it’s Virginia’s defense that’s the big story but in many ways, and certainly in the second half, Duke’s was better.

Duke held Virginia to 36.8% from the floor, just 5-20 from the three point line and pretty much did to Virginia what we’re used to seeing Virginia do to other teams down the stretch: namely force them into bad shots and bad decisions.

When Duke had a six point lead and London Perrantes hit a basket to make the score 48-44 with 3:52 left, we just kind of braced ourselves because at that point in the game, Virginia - usually - is smart. Exceptionally smart in fact.

Not so much Wednesday. Perrantes missed a jumper with 3:15 that might have cut the lead to two.

Then Tatum got a rebound and hit a three. Then Devon Hall missed a layup.

Then Tatum got a rebound and hit a three - isn’t cut and paste great?

From there it was a parade to the foul line, or it was after Virginia had to foul three times quickly to force Duke to shoot foul shots (three fouls in two seconds in fact).

But Duke kept hitting freebies.

Kennard hit a pair, followed by a two point shot by Virginia’s Ty Jerome.

Then Frank Jackson hit a pair, followed by an Isaiah Wilkins dunk.

Then Kennard hit a pair and Zippy Travis Guy took a ridiculous three.

Kennard split a pair to make the score 61-50 with :52 left.

Thing is, we’ve seen Virginia make that up before.

So Jerome hit a basket and a foul shot to make it 61-53.

Tatum made a pair, then Hall got a layup and Kennard made his next pair to make it 65-55 with :40 left.

At that point, the ‘Hoos conceded and Luke Kennard just dribbled as the shot clock ran out.

Virginia got the ball back but the game was decided and had been for some time.

With the win, Duke moves into a solid tie for second place in the ACC, which is valuable because of the double bye that comes with it in the ACC Tournament.

The tourney now starts on Tuesday and runs through Saturday (with New York hotel prices for extra excitement this year).

The odds of winning five straight are pretty minimal so finishing in the top four is important.

Duke hasn’t lost since falling to NC State at home on January 23rd and people are raving about the turnaround.

Getting Coach K back had a whole lot to do with it of course but no one should underestimate the role Jeff Capel played.

Remember, Coach K left the bench for back surgery and recuperation after the Georgia Tech win on January 4th.

Duke lost two straight when Jefferson went out with a bone bruise on his foot and things did look pretty dire. People even speculated that Duke might fall to the bubble.

Well that didn’t happen and Capel is a big reason why.

He stabilized the team after the second loss, at Louisville, and led an amazing second half turnaround when Miami was killing Duke in Cameron.

The State game was a loss, but since then Duke took out Wake at Wake, Notre Dame at Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, UNC and Clemson at home and now Virginia on the road.

Duke owes Capel a lot this year.

Second place is looking pretty solid too.

Duke has wins over Virginia and Notre Dame so there’s some wiggle room. FSU and Louisville both claim wins over Duke (all three teams are 9-4) but Duke has a win over #1 UNC (10-3 after Wednesday’s win over NC State).

Duke’s next game is Wake Forest at home Saturday and then the Blue Devils hit a tough backstretch: Syracuse and Miami on the road followed by Florida State at home before closing out in Chapel Hill.

It’s possible, if not necessarily likely that Duke and UNC will meet again with the regular season on the line.

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