UVa. gets signature win, upsets #3 Duke, 73-68

uva-duke-headerJoe Harris scored a career-high 36 points to carry UVa. to its 20th win of the season, 73-68, in front of a packed and raucous house at the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville Thursday night.

Harris hit 12 of his 20 shots from the floor to outduel fellow ACC Player of the Year candidates Seth Curry (28 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field) and Mason Plumlee (10 points on 2-of-5 shooting and seven rebounds).

“That’s not for me to determine if he is [ACC Player of the Year], but I think he’s really improved. I think he’s probably surprising some people,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “We saw this coming. I don’t know if I saw 36 [points] and 7 [rebounds] coming, but we see it in practice and we see him improve. He’s the most unselfish guy that you’ll be around.”

Harris got the Cavs (20-8, 10-5 ACC) off to a hot start, scoring nine points in the first 9:05 to help push Virginia to an early 18-6 runout. Duke went on a 15-4 run to claw back to within one at 22-21 on a three-pointer by Curry at the 4:27 mark, but UVa. closed out the half on a modest 6-2 run to go into the break up five at 28-23.

Another Curry three to open the second half cut the margin back to two, but a 10-0 Virginia run helped out by a technical foul called on Rasheed Sulaimon pushed the lead out to 12 again. UVa. led by as many as 16 at 55-39 with 6:39 left, but Duke wouldn’t go away.

A Quinn Cook three with 26 seconds left pulled Duke (24-4, 11-4 ACC) to within 71-66, but Evan Nolte made a pair of free throws with 22 seconds left to push the margin back to three possessions, and the final points of the game came on a meaningless Cook layup with one second left.

“I want to congratulate Virginia. I thought they played really hard,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Harris was fantastic, which we knew he would be. He is just one of the best players in the country. He had half their points, and when you have a guy playing that well, it breaks everybody up.”

Akil Mitchell also had a solid game for Virginia, scoring 19 points and pulling in a game-high 12 rebounds while also making life exceedingly hard for Plumlee on the blocks.

“He’s a great player,” Mitchell said of Plumlee. “Just like against anyone else, I just tried to use my quickness and athleticism to stay in front of him. I tried to limit his post touches, but he wasn’t trying to post deep. But I think the post trap really threw him off a little bit.”

Virginia outrebounded Duke 36-25 and shot 46.2 percent from the field while holding the Blue Devils to 39.6 percent shooting.

The win for UVa. could very well be the last bit of resume padding the ‘Hoos will need to buttress their NCAA Tournament credentials.

“This is a big win for us and a big win for our program,” Harris said. “We need to finish out the season strong. There can be no slouching in conference play. We have to finish the year on a high note, and hopefully we’ll be fortunate enough to make the tournament.”


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