Hoo Dat: No. 2 Virginia Downs No. 4 Duke at Cameron Indoor | Zagsblog
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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Friday / June 14.
  • Hoo Dat: No. 2 Virginia Downs No. 4 Duke at Cameron Indoor

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    By MIKE McCURRY

    Tony Bennett, currently the likely frontrunner for National Coach of the Year, prefers to play at a slow, methodical pace.

    Which might sound odd, considering that Virginia is running away—not grinding it out or mucking it up—with the ACC regular season title.

    On Saturday, the 2nd-ranked Cavaliers cruised into Durham, allowed Marvin Bagley to get his, and still came away with a 65-63 victory against No. 4 Duke.

    The matchup between the nation’s best offense going toe-to-toe with the nation’s best defense did not disappoint, and it resulted in Virginia’s first win at Cameron Indoor Stadium since January 14, 1995.

    Craving some additional historical factoids? Here are two to sink your teeth into:

    • Virginia improved to 9-0 in the ACC, its best such open to conference play since 1980-81, when the Ralph Sampson-led Hoos started off 12-0.
    • With No. 10 UNC getting stunned at home in overtime at the hands of North Carolina State earlier, Saturday marks the first time since February 21, 1973 that Duke and North Carolina both lost at home on the same day.
    Back to the present, Virginia now stands 20-1 overall, with that lone defeat coming back on December 5 at West Virginia—there’s certainly no shame in that.

    And, at just the midway point of conference play, the Cavaliers already occupy their very own tier atop the ACC. Virginia is 9-0. Next closest is Louisville at 5-2, a full three games behind. Virginia hosts Louisville on Wednesday, which could widen the separation even more.

    Clearly, Virginia has the inside track to what would be their third ACC title in five seasons. They’re also on the verge of locking up a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

    I’ve touched on it countless times over the course of the season, but it bears repeating: This wasn’t supposed to be the conversation we are having, particularly not at this point in time.

    Virginia’s late-season collapse a year ago saw them drop eight of their final 15 games. Leading scorer and facilitator London Perrantes, at long last, graduated. Marial Shayok, UVA’s second-leading scorer, bolted for another program. Others followed suit. Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome were largely unproven–it was anyone’s guess as to how they were going to respond given higher usage rates.

    Back in the preseason, if you were to tell me that on January 27, one ACC juggernaut would take a stranglehold of the conference in a game featuring Duke, I would have guessed that said team would have been, well, Duke.

    But on Saturday, the country’s most prolific offense, which came in averaging a Division-1-leading 91.7 points per game, mustered just 63. Duke failed to eclipse one point-per-possession for the first time all season. They turned the ball over 16 times.

    Bagley (30 points, 14 rebounds) and Wendell Carter (14 points, 15 rebounds) were terrific, but while they combined for 44 points on 19-of-29 shooting (66 percent), all other Blue Devils totaled 19 points on an 8-of-27 floor display (30 percent).

    In a Top-5 matchup with plenty at stake, not a single Duke backcourt member showed up.

    Grayson Allen continued his in-conference swoon, scoring just five points on 2-of-8 shooting. Don’t look now, but against ACC competition this season, he has a mere 101.8 Offensive Rating while shooting 24 percent from three.

    Trevon Duval (6 points, 8 assists, 5 turnovers) and Gary Trent Jr. (8 points on 3-of-11 shooting) brought very little to the table as well.

    Duke, trailing by as many as 13 early in the latter frame, elected to go zone, an adjustment that has served as the crux to many of their late, ferocious rallies this season. And it worked brilliantly again. Virginia appeared stuck in the mud—their best offense became an Isaiah Wilkins free-throw line jumper or a long, contested Guy three-pointer.

    Duke took the lead, but not before Bennett responded to Mike Krzyzewski’s adjustment with one of his own. He put De’Andre Hunter (12 points, 4 rebounds) to work in the middle of the zone, where the redshirt freshman thrived prior to leaving with an apparent ankle injury.

    Down the stretch, America’s most underrated backcourt took over.

    Jerome (13 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals) nailed a pair of gigantic, deep three-pointers from the top of the key. In between those two, Guy (17 points) nailed one of his own from the right corner—his third shot of the possession, demonstrating his uber-confidence and fearlessness—a play made possible by Duke’s bigs being a step too slow to cover the perimeter.

    In the end, slowly but surely, Bennett got the better of a Hall-of-Fame coach—it’s not the first he’s accomplished such a feat.

    Photo: AP

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