Looking back at Virginia’s three wins over the Blue Devils under Tony Bennett
Story by Zach Pereles
Duke, historically, has owned Virginia in basketball. The Blue Devils own a 102-37 all-time series lead since the teams first met back on December 12, 1949, when Mike Krzyzewski was 2 years old. Duke’s dominance was evident early: The Blue Devils won the first nine meetings and even had a 22-game win streak against the Cavaliers from 1959-1968.
That’s not to say the Cavaliers haven’t had some strong stretches as well, though. Ralph Sampson went 9-0 against Duke in his four years in Charlottesville, the longest winning streak the Cavaliers have ever had in the series. The Blue Devils were certainly grateful when Sampson finally graduated: They went on to win the next 16 games.
Duke continued its dominance in the 2000s. At one point between 2003 and 2012, Coach K topped the Cavaliers on 17 of 18 occasions, with Sean Singletary’s iconic shot and ensuing staredown of the camera in 2007 being the only time the Cavaliers emerged victorious in that stretch.
Tony Bennett is just 3-10 against Duke, but the three wins have all been impressive ones. As Virginia looks to give Bennett his fourth win over the Blue Devils, here’s a look back at the last three.
Feb. 28, 2013: Virginia 73, No. 3 Duke 68 — Bennett’s first win over Duke
In his fourth year at Virginia by this point, Bennett had defeated every single ACC team except for Duke. The year had started inauspiciously with losses to George Mason and Delaware sandwiched around a narrow win against Fairfield. (Those Cavaliers weren’t quite ready for marquee out-of-conference games, clearly.) But Virginia finished the rest of the non-conference schedule strong and opened ACC play with an impressive win over UNC.
In its first year following Mike Scott’s graduation, the Virginia offense was inconsistent at best. But it finally seemed to get on a roll in early February, and the Cavaliers had scored at least 70 points in five of their previous six games heading into a clash with No. 3 Duke.
There seemed to be magic in the air early. The Cavaliers scored the game’s first nine points, a stretch that included a high-arcing jumper and a layup from senior Jontel Evans, who only averaged 4.7 points per game on the season.
But the story of the game was, fittingly, one of the players credited for helping turn Virginia basketball into a powerhouse: Joe Harris. Harris, a junior at the time, netted 15 points in the first half, and Virginia took a 28-23 lead into halftime.
The Duke offense came to life in the second half, but Virginia proved its offensive improvement from the previous weeks were no fluke, either. Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon picked up a technical, and Virginia stretched its lead to 46-33 with just under 10 minutes to go following a jumper from seldom-used freshman Teven Jones. The lead would eventually get as large as 16.
The Blue Devils simply couldn’t stop Harris as they tried to mount a comeback. A straight-away three put Virginia up 12 and gave him 30 points on the night. Despite Duke putting on a full-court press, Virginia would not wither. Mitchell put an exclamation point on the win with an emphatic slam off an perfect pass from Harris. Mitchell would finish with 19 and Harris with 36, a career high. No one else scored more than six points for Virginia.
Harris sheepishly admitted afterward that it was probably the best game of his life. Krzyzewski was more direct.
“Harris was fantastic, which we knew he would be. He’s just one of the best players in the country,” Krzyzewski said. “When you have a guy playing at that level … it brings everybody up. You know you’re playing with a stud.”
Virginia led from start to finish.
“When Joe gets that look in his eye that he’s not going to be denied, he’s hard to stop,” Bennett said. “I’m so happy for him. … I think he’s really improved, and I think he’s probably surprising some people. … Most unselfish guy that you’ll be around.”
Unfortunately, the Duke game didn’t spark a late-season surge. Virginia dropped consecutive heartbreakers at Boston College and at Florida State by a total of three points. After a win against Maryland, Virginia bowed out in the first round of the ACC Tournament and had to settle for an NIT berth.
Mar. 16, 2014: No. 6 Virginia 72, No. 7 Duke 63 — The ACC Championship
Looking for its first ACC Tournament championship since 1976, Virginia got off to a hot start. Thanks to a pair of sophomores — Malcolm Brogdon and Mike Tobey — Virginia quickly staked itself to a 9-2 lead in front of a raucous Virginia contingent in Greensboro Coliseum. Duke made just three of its first 19 shots and didn’t make a three until more than 11 minutes had passed.
For much of an offensively challenged first half, the lone highlight was a technical foul on Krzyzewski. The teams exchanged late threes, though, and Virginia went to the break with a 28-25 lead. It was Duke’s lowest-scoring first half of the season. Future NBAers Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood went a combined 4 for 18 while Joe Harris scored just two points.
Parker started to get it going in the second half, though, and gave Duke a brief 34-33 lead, its first lead since 2-0. But Brogdon answered right back with a pull-up jumper. From there, it became Parker versus Virginia. A massive dunk in transition followed by a three gave Duke another lead, 45-44. After Tobey answered with a putback layup, Parker twirled into the lane for two more, his 20th and 21st points of the game.
Neither team could gain any separation for the next several minutes before a layup from Brogdon and a tip-in from Akil Mitchell gave Virginia a 57-53 lead with five minutes left, forcing a Krzyzewski timeout.
Every time Duke looked to be shifting the momentum, Virginia somehow got a basket, often via second-chance points. After a Rasheed Sulaimon jumper cut Virginia’s lead to 59-57, Mitchell got an easy putback layup.
Then came one of the more memorable sequences in Bennett’s career. Up 61-57, Mitchell stripped Parker of the ball, and handed it off to Brogdon, who found London Perrantes. Perrantes spotted Harris in the frontcourt, and Harris, who had struggled all afternoon, drained a wide open three. The blue and orange inside Greensboro Coliseum erupted, and for good reason. The Cavaliers were going to be ACC Tournament champions for the first time in nearly 40 years.
The Cavaliers were dominant on the boards, owning a 36-28 advantage there. Anthony Gill and Mitchell combined for 22 rebounds.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” Mitchell said in the minutes following the game. “But we’ve solidified ourselves in the history of UVA.”
Jan. 27, 2018: No. 2 Virginia 65, No. 4Duke 63: Downing Duke in Durham
To give you an idea of how long it had been since Virginia beat Duke in Durham, current assistant coach Jason Williford was at Virginia as a player when the Cavaliers won a thrilling 91-88 double-overtime game, stunning the Cameron Crazies with a wild comeback in 1995.
This one wouldn’t require any overtimes, but it certainly required some late-game heroics.
Virginia took a 32-22 lead into the locker room following a clinical first half. Duke came into the game averaging over 91 points per contest.
The Cavaliers’ lead grew to as large as 13 before Duke switched to a 2-3 zone and Virginia forgot how to knock down shots — even wide open ones. Duke took the lead behind current NBA big men Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter Jr., but a Ty Jerome three helped Virginia regain the lead, 53-51 with 6:41 to go.
Duke would never lead again thanks to big shots from Kyle Guy and Devon Hall down the stretch. None, though, were as big as Jerome’s in the final minute.
Duke cut the Virginia lead to 60-58 with 1:37 to go, and Krzyzewski called timeout. Guy missed a three on the ensuing possession, and the Blue Devils looked to have a transition opportunity. Jerome lept in front of Trevon Duval’s pass, though, and 20 second later buried the shot heard ‘round Durham.
Even a late pair of buckets from Bagley couldn’t overcome that. Williford celebrated on the Cameron Indoor Arena court for a second time. Few people can say that.