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Thoughts On The Virginia Win

Young Duke is growing up fast.

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NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Duke
 Jan 19, 2019; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward R.J. Barrett (5) and Duke Blue Devils forward Zion Williamson (1) celebrate a win over the Virginia Cavaliers at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils won 72-70. 
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Zion Williamson’s video highlights are easy to find, including on DBR, so we thought we’d highlight just one photo. We used it with the main Virginia game story but it’s so dramatic that it’s worth revisiting. Take a look.

Keep in mind that he’s on the way down and his head is still at the rim.

We just wanted to look at that again because it’s an incredible shot and kind of sums up the Virginia win in an interesting way.

Under Tony Bennett, Virginia has been superb at gumming up the inside and restricting offense. Yet Williamson and RJ Barrett had little trouble getting inside the Pack Line and taking the ball to the basket.

We’re honestly not entirely sure how they did it to be honest because Virginia is extraordinarily good at denying penetration. Yet there they were, repeatedly shredding the Pack Line.

Williamson shot 10-16 and Barrett hit 10-19. LIke Syracuse, Virginia paid special attention to Williamson who just blew by people. We watched again and again as he tricked defenders and once they were out of the way, headed straight to the basket.

If you watch the highlight video we linked, you’ll see one where Virginia’s Jay Huff, who by the way showed some real promise early in this game, just couldn’t react in time to stop him. You can see him try, but he just can’t move fast enough.

And as far as Barrett goes, remember this: he filled in for the injured Tre Jones at point and still was dominant offensively. And despite missing Jones, Duke had just eight turnovers for the game.

Duke went with four forwards and Marques Bolden so that the Blue Devils could switch freely (which they did - Bolden switched frequently to Ty Jerome, even when he had four fouls).

It bothered Virginia but in spite of it, the Cavs were highly efficient in the first half and finished the game hitting 52.8%.

De’Andre Hunter did a lot of damage but Duke did a tremendous job on Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome, who are both very dangerous on offense. Both scored 14 but combined to shoot 12-23 and never seemed to reach a point where they were truly dangerous, other than Guy’s late three, which was largely due to confusion on Duke’s part. More tellingly, on Virginia’s 28 made shots, Guy and Jerome assisted on just five of them.

Look at it this way: Duke played the best defensive team in the country, without Jones, with Cam Reddish back but no word on how he feels, and with only 12 minutes, five fouls and one assist from the bench.

Despite all those things, despite relying on Williamson and Barrett for 57 of Duke’s points, and despite Virginia’s comparatively vast experience, despite a tough week in many ways, Duke won.

This team has gone from a talented group to a tough-minded team. That guarantees nothing, as Jones’ injury reminds, but this: you’re going to have to work exceptionally hard to beat it.

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