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Duke Toughens Up, Beats Virginia 65-61

An important game in a young team’s development

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Duke v Virginia
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - FEBRUARY 23: Mark Williams #15 of the Duke Blue Devils blocks a shot by Francisco Caffaro #22 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the second half at John Paul Jones Arena on February 23, 2022 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

Virginia hasn’t won two regular-season games in the same season against Duke since Duke’s lost 1995 season.

They still haven’t. Duke got a huge second half from A.J. Griffin and standout performances from Jeremy Roach, Trevor Keels and Mark Williams to defeat Virginia 65-61 in Charlottesville Wednesday night, gaining a measure of payback for that last-second loss in Cameron earlier this season.

More importantly than revenge, Duke’s fifth straight win leaves them still in control of the ACC regular-season race at 14-3, 23-4 overall.

Of course we all knew Duke and Virginia would come down to final seconds. That’s what they do. But Duke’s young team made those winning plays down the stretch, hopefully a good sign for a deep March run when winning plays down the stretch will be at a premium.

Virginia got a career performance from senior guard Kihei Clark, who torched Duke for 25 points. But Virginia came into the contest firmly on the NCAA bubble and dropping to 11-7 and 17-11 is going to keep them there.

The Cavaliers certainly played well enough to win. Clark hit three triples in the first 7:18, six in the first 15:26. At one point Clark was leading Duke 18-17.

But he didn’t make another 3 after that.

And Duke never lost contact. Virginia’s biggest lead was five points, at 7-2.and then 22-17. Duke started prioritizing Clark—Roach even blocked a 3-pointer—and closed the half on a 13-3 run to take a 30-25 lead into intermission.

“Clark had a heck of a game,” Mike Krzyzewski said. “He’s as good of a guard as there is in the league. The shooting performance he put on in that first half – we had to change our defense. I really thought the key guy for us in the game was Jeremy. Jeremy came in and not that he stopped Clark, but he defended him.”

Whatever momentum Duke took into the locker room evaporated in a hurry. Virginia simply outworked Duke on a couple of early possessions, leading Mike Krzyzewski to call an early time out at 30-29.

It was a dogfight. It seemed like Duke was ahead by five to seven points much of the second half but every time Virginia needed a basket, they got one.

Duke took the game’s biggest lead at 52-44 but got stuck on 52 for three minutes, four empty possessions, while Virginia closed the gap.

But Virginia missed two chances to regain the lead at 52-51, the first a missed 3 by Clark.

Then Griffin took over. A three-pointer put Duke up 55-51, with 3:44 left, then another to make it 58-53, with 2:44 left, then a bucket in the lane for 60-55.

That’s eight points in a little more than 90 seconds, three consecutive possessions and 10 points in the final four minutes.

“I’m really proud of AJ,” Krzyzewski said “because he had such a tough shooting night, but we have confidence in him that his next shot is going to go in, and three of his next shots went in in the last four minutes, and God bless. So, it just happened to work. I thought his best move was the two-point [basket] because he had to really muck it out.”

Then Griffin deflected a Virginia pass to Keels for a turnover that Keels converted at the other end.

Virginia kept coming and the last two off Clark’s points made it 63-61, with 2.5 seconds left.

But there would be no miracle for Virginia this night. Duke got the ball in bounds to Griffin who converted two foul shots and that was the ball game.

Duke got the win without getting a lot from Paolo Banchero (8 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 turnovers, 2-13 shooting) or Wendell Moore (4 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 turnovers).

But Roach gave Duke a team-high 15 points off the bench, hitting all three of his 3-pointers. After struggling early Griffin scored nine of his 13 points in the final four minutes. Keels had 13 points, Williams eight points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.

Jayden Gardner and Reese Beckman joined Clark in double figures for Virginia with 16 and 11 points respectively.

Roach summed up the win.

“The main focus in this game was, obviously they beat us at home, so we wanted to get payback, but the preparation is key for every game. If you don’t have good preparation, it’s going to lead to a bad performance. We just wanted to stay locked in on the preparation, have great energy and follow the game plan like I said, and do the main things that Coach said – [play] smart, tough and together. I think we did that tonight.”


Player Of The Game vs. Virginia

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    Wendell Moore
    (2 votes)
  • 22%
    AJ Griffin
    (174 votes)
  • 0%
    Paolo Banchero
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Mark Williams
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    Trevor Keels
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    Theo John
    (2 votes)
  • 74%
    Jeremy Roach
    (586 votes)
  • 0%
    Joey Baker
    (5 votes)
784 votes total Vote Now