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Heartbreaker: Virginia comes up short in second Duke upset bid, 65-61

kihei clark
Kihei Clark had a career-high 25 points, including six first-half threes, for Virginia in its 65-61 loss to Duke. Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

Mike Krzyzewski got the matchup he wanted – projected NBA lottery pick AJ Griffin on Kadin Shedrick.

Griffin’s threes on back-to-back possessions gave Duke the smidge of breathing room it needed in a 65-61 win over Virginia Wednesday night.

Griffin, as of the 3:39 mark of the second half, had three points on 1-of-8 shooting, so it was an interesting move from Krzyzewski to put the game in his hands.

He ran a play for Griffin out of the under-4 media timeout that led to the first three that put Duke (24-4, 14-3 ACC) up 55-51.

Virginia (17-11, 11-7 ACC) answered with an Armaan Franklin floater, but Duke went back to Griffin, who hit the second three at the 2:40 mark to get Duke up five.

Jayden Gardner converted a twisting layup underneath, and Tony Bennett called timeout to sub out Shedrick for a guard, Kody Stattmann, but Coach K, out of the timeout, ran another play for Griffin, this time getting him one-on-one with Stattmann in an iso.

Griffin took Stattmann to the hoop, got the bucket and a foul, and though he missed the free throw, that was three buckets, eight points, on three possessions, and a 60-55 Duke lead with 2:05 to go.

Credit to Virginia for answering, this time with a pair of Reece Beekman free throws that cut the deficit to two.

Virginia then got a stop on Duke’s next possession, but Kihei Clark, who had a career night, 25 points and seven assists, tried to force the ball inside to Gardner and turned it over.

Duke, on the live-ball turnover, got a driving layup from Trevor Keels to go up 62-57 with 54 ticks on the clock.

Gardner, who finished with 16 points, 14 in the second half, scored on another driving layup with 41 seconds left to get it back to a three-point game.

After a Duke timeout, Trevor Keels was fouled on a drive to the basket by Shedrick, then missed the front end of the two-shot foul, leaving the door ajar.

The second hit the front rim and spun over, giving Duke a four-point lead.

Gardner missed a three with seven seconds left, but Clark chased down the rebound, as Clark has been known to do in his time in Charlottesville, and scored on a driving layup with 2.5 seconds on the clock to make it a two-point game.

Griffin, fittingly, would put the game away, hitting both ends of a one-and-one with 1.8 seconds left.

Griffin would finish with 13 points, 10 of Duke’s 13 in the final 3:39.

Clark’s 25 included 18 in a scintillating first half in which he was 6-of-9 from three.

Krzyzewski, in the second half, had Duke defenders switching on screens for Clark, which was how he ended up with five assists after halftime.

Gardner’s 16, 14 in the second half, had him shooting 6-of-11 from the floor after halftime.

Reece Beekman had 11 points, a team-high seven rebounds and five assists.

Banchero, the presumptive #1 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft when the season started in November, had his second straight subpar effort against the smaller Gardner.

Banchero had nine points on 3-of-9 shooting and nine rebounds in 38 minutes in the 69-68 loss to Virginia in Durham on Feb. 7. He had eight points on 2-of-13 shooting and five rebounds in 36 minutes in front of 10 NBA scouts in attendance Wednesday night.

Jeremy Roach, a former five-star recruit from Northern Virginia who spurned Virginia for Duke two years ago, had 15 points to lead Duke.

The computers, no doubt, will tell you that Virginia lost ground in its quest for an NCAA Tournament bid with the loss.

Anybody who watched the two games with Duke and the two with Miami, who was swept by Virginia, would tell you otherwise.

Story by Chris Graham

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