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That wasn’t a ‘hangover’: Duke got bullied by Virginia on its home floor

kadin shedrick
Kadin Shedrick posterizes Duke forward Paolo Banchero. Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

Enough with the “Carolina hangover” nonsense. Virginia went into Cameron Indoor Stadium and bullied Duke, everybody in the orange and blue, from the 5’9” point guard to assistant coach Jason Williford.

Twenty of Virginia’s first 22 points were in the paint, prompting Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who conceded afterward that “they carved us up,” to go zone to try to stop the bleeding.

It wouldn’t work – the Cavaliers manhandled Duke in the paint by a 52-28 margin, attacking the rim early and often, getting 34 shots at the rim, nearly double their season average.

Duke’s rotation boasts bigger, more physical players at every position, but it was the smallest guy on the floor, Kihei Clark, all 5’9”-ish, 170-ish pounds of him, who earned Virginia the game’s last shot with a pair of held balls, one on a drive to the bucket by Jeremy Roach, a five-star from Fairfax who spurned Tony Bennett for Coach K, with 3:03 to go, the second after 6’9”, 242-pound center Theo John had rebounded an Armaan Franklin miss.

The crown jewel of this latest crop of Duke one-and-dones, 6’10” forward Paolo Banchero, was utterly outplayed by a guy four inches shorter, 6’6” Virginia power forward Jayden Gardner, who had 17 points and eight boards, and held Banchero to nine and nine, his first game as a collegian not in double-digits in scoring.

Banchero, according to the game box, was on the floor for all 20 minutes of the second half, but you had to check the box score to know that he was out there at all: he had one shot attempt in the second half, a wild prayer at the buzzer that hit the top and side of the backboard.

Banchero’s final statline in the second half: 0 points, 0-of-1 shooting, two rebounds, two assists, three turnovers.

Anyway, cue up the excuse machine.

“Virginia could go far in the NCAA Tournament, so you play a team that’s well-coached and has veteran players, and after winning big, there’s no question that we played well Saturday night, but we didn’t play well tonight,” Krzyzewski said. “Virginia had a lot to do with that, but I’m not blaming it all on that because it takes away from their effort – they were well-prepared, and they did a hell of a job against us, and it was hard to score against them.”

To be fair, as you can see there, Coach K was maybe the one guy in his locker room not making excuses after the game. He admitted that the loss was “a tough loss because of how it ended, but we were not worthy of winning most of the game.”

“We had to do a whole bunch of things to massage that game to where we’re close at halftime,” Krzyzewski said. “They’re a team where you need a couple days to prepare because they run their stuff so well, and they have two really outstanding guards who don’t turn the ball over. Their precision with Kihei and Reece [Beekman] is one of the things that makes them really good.”

His players didn’t seem to get the message, even after Krzyzewski tried to wake them from their slumber with a timeout three minutes in.

“He told us it’s not going to be easy,” said Duke center Mark Williams, another five-star who chose Duke over Virginia, because of course he did. “You’ve got to beat human nature. You just beat a Carolina team by 20 on the road, and you’ve got to come out here on a Monday, just two days later, and beat another tough team. We didn’t do that tonight.”

“We’re going to get everybody’s best shot, and he talked to us about that leading up to the game, right after the UNC game,” said Trevor Keels, a, yawn, five-star guard from Fairfax who, yes, was recruited hard by Virginia, ended up at Duke.

“We had a big game against UNC and were up 20 pretty much the whole game, and after the game, he said we’ve got to flip the page and worry about UVA,” Keels said. “I think we could’ve prepared better. We started off the game a little slow. We fought at the end, but UVA’s a great team, and it’s hard to fight against teams like that because they’re always going to keep it up.”

Lost in the narrative about the “Carolina hangover” is that Duke was at home after playing eight miles down the road on Saturday, and that Virginia also had a game on Saturday, against a Miami team that had won at Duke and was 8-3 in ACC play coming in.

And that Virginia had also posted a big, convincing, dominating win in that one, with the requisite love affair from the media and fans about how “Virginia is back” and how “the light finally turned on” for Bennett’s crew.

Students aren’t facing expulsion for setting fire to benches in the aftermath of the Miami win or anything, but still.

“I got a text from my dad, and he just simply said, ‘Lace ‘em up and do it again,’” Bennett said. “You have a tendency sometimes to make this bigger than it is when you come in here, because it’s an unbelievable atmosphere, you grow up watching it, you know how talented their team is, Coach K, all of that, but we just said, be laser-focused to start and play our game, get it to our kind of game, if we can, and battle, and I thought the guys did that.

“Perhaps Duke was flat coming off a big game, I don’t know, but I think we certainly had a real solid game, and we’re just trying to continue to improve, and got a lift from everyone,” Bennett said.

Bennett and Krzyzewski have more in common than you think right off. Both were surprise hires from small-time programs who had to rebuild, and did so with guys that had chips on their shoulders because they’d been overlooked by the blue bloods.

You might even think that Krzyzewski, in his 42nd and final season in Durham, wishes he still had some guys with chips on their shoulders, like Bennett’s guys.

“Virginia has such a rich tradition, they’re an outstanding program, and they play really well, but teams are hungry, and we’ve got to be hungry after we’ve eaten. We had a big meal, but we have to be hungry again, and I thought they were hungrier than we were tonight,” Kryzezewski said.

Story by Chris Graham

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