Duke, on its side, was averaging 17 fouls per game in ACC play going into Saturday, second-most in the ACC.
Naturally, it was Virginia in foul trouble, early, with senior forward Isaiah Wilkins, the top-rated defensive player in the nation, getting just three minutes of floor time in the first half, saddled with two fouls, and playing just 14 minutes overall, picking up four fouls.
And before Duke was forced to foul late to play the clock game, committing five fouls in the final 54 seconds, the line item on fouls was Virginia 18, Duke 9.
Seems odd, that the team among the best in the country at keeping its hands to itself would have its ACC-high in the same game in which its grab-handy opponent would approach its season-low before having to foul to stop the clock.
You could argue style of play was a factor. Points in the paint were a lot closer than you’d expect considering the relative offensive strengths of the teams, Duke outscoring Virginia 44-34 in the lane.
Virginia attempted 44 two-point shots, Duke 41.
Virginia was 16-of-27 on shots in the paint. Duke was 23-of-35.
Duke attacked a little more, then, not much more, but a little more.
The slight edge in attacking the paint didn’t translate into extra free throws. Duke was 5-of-11 at the stripe, Virginia 7-of-9, with two makes in four attempts in the final minute, as Duke was playing fouls for clock.
The advantage to Duke didn’t come at the line, then, though it did come in not having Wilkins available to play post defense against Duke’s talented frontcourt duo of Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter.
Virginia had to go with 6’7” freshman guard De’Andre Hunter in the post for 24 minutes, and though Hunter more than held his own on the offensive end, scoring 12 points on 6-of-13 shooting, 10 points and 5-of-7 shooting in the paint, he was no match for Bagley and Carter on the defensive end.
Bagley finished with 30 points on 13-of-18 shooting. Carter had 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting.
Bagley also had 14 rebounds, Carter 15.
Wilkins being on the floor doesn’t stop both guys, maybe doesn’t stop one of them, but he does at least slow their rolls.
The other advantage to Duke is that their bigs didn’t get into foul trouble at all. Carter, in particular, has had trouble staying on the court this season, fouling out twice, and picking up four fouls in a game seven other times.
He had two fouls in 37 minutes on Saturday.
Bagley had three, and benefitted from a no-call on a clear push-off on a drive to the basket with 1:35 to go leading to a dunk that cut the Virginia lead to 60-58.
Don’t say I didn’t tell you this was going to happen, by the way, because I did, down to the call that it would be Wilkins who would mysteriously find himself in early foul trouble.
This is what you call life on Tobacco Road in the ACC.
Not crying about it at all. Just illustrating how it happens.
Story by Chris Graham