UVA lost at Duke: Based on how, I’m OK with it

uva dukeYou’re supposed to feel bad, if you’re a UVA basketball fan, because your team just lost at Duke, which was playing without point guard Tre Jones.

So, why is it that I feel as good about Virginia basketball as I’ve felt in the past six years?

Did you see what the #1 and #2 picks in the June NBA draft did tonight? That was R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson at the height of their powers.

First, Barrett. Kid might have played himself back into being the #1 pick in the draft. That was, no question, his best game in college: 11-of-19 from the floor, three assists, one turnover, in 40 minutes running the point, a position he will not have to play in the NBA, but he looked pretty good running it Saturday night.

Then, Williamson. He didn’t score in the last 4:50, but he still finished with 27 on 10-of-16 shooting and a game-high nine rebounds.

Playing 38 minutes is not his thing: he was visibly spent in the last five minutes, contributing only a single rebound and missing a crucial pair of free throws in the final minute.

But when you see highlights of this game, all you’ll see is Williamson dunking on an inbounds, dunking on Jay Huff, running free in the lane for layups, fighting through contact for and-ones.

Barrett and Williamson had a combined 57 points on 21-of-35 shooting.

Duke won by two.

At home.

They were favored by two and a half by Vegas. KenPom.com had Duke winning 71-69.

The final was 72-70.

Virginia missed 11 of its last 15 from the field, Duke made six of its last seven, all over the last 9:34, and all that meant was a one-point Duke lead turned into a two-point Duke win.

Virginia, shooting 40.9 percent from three on the season coming in, went just 3-of-17 from long-range.

Duke had nine offensive rebounds in the first half, leading to 11 second-chance points.

They got just one offensive rebound in the second half, but finished with a five-point edge in second-chance points.

And a four-point edge in points off turnovers.

Their best two players, the #1 and #2 picks in the draft, go off for 57, they’re plus-nine in turnovers and second-chance points, UVA shoots 17.6 percent from three, and Duke wins by two.

At home.

If you can see what I’m getting at here:

That’s a lot of things working very much in Duke’s favor.

Big nights from a pair of one-and-dones.

A nine-point edge in hustle points.

Virginia couldn’t buy an open jump shot.

Duke should have won this game by 20, and any other game where you have Barrett and Williamson going off like that, where Duke wins the hustle battle, where an opponent can’t make a jumper to save its life, it will be a big blowout.

It took an awful damn lot for Duke to win this game, at home, by two, is what I’m getting at here.

One knock I would have granted you on last year’s Virginia team, which finished 31-3, went 20-1 in the ACC, was that, they didn’t face a lot of adversity, until they did, in the UMBC game, and it showed in that game that they hadn’t faced a lot of adversity, because they didn’t respond well.

Saturday was all about adversity. Duke led this one for 33:23, led by five at the half, led by as many as eight in the final minute.

Virginia went scoreless for a 3:49 stretch, and at about the worst time, into the final minute.

Aforementioned, missed 11 of their last 15 shots, as Duke was making six of its last seven.

Duke won by two.

If that’s what it takes to beat this Virginia team, see you in Minneapolis.

Column by Chris Graham

uva basketball team of destiny
Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is now available at a special pre-sale discounted price of $20. The book is expected to ship by June 10, 2019, and will retail for $25.
Pre-order for $20: click here.


The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
 
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