Duke Basketball: Hot hands propel Blue Devils to statement win at Virginia

(Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images) /

A 3-point contest ended up benefiting the Duke basketball team in a game between two of the top three teams in the country on Saturday night.

The Virginia Cavaliers stuffed the paint on defense, daring the Duke basketball players to shoot from the outside. And the Blue Devils responded by knocking down more 3-pointers than any other team has this season against Virginia’s defense.

As a result of its 13-for-21 mark from beyond the arc — the Blue Devils entered the game shooting just 30.7 percent from deep for the season — No. 2 Duke (21-2; 9-1 ACC) escaped with an 81-71 win in Charlottesville on Saturday night, giving the Cavaliers (20-2; 8-2 ACC) their second loss of the season, both at the hands of the Blue Devils.

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Duke is now 5-0 on the road for the season and has five wins against teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25 (3-1 in games against teams that are currently ranked the top five).

In the first half, Blue Devil freshman R.J. Barrett led the 3-point attack, hitting his first five attempts — giving him his career-high in 3-point makes less than 12 minutes into the game. The Canadian southpaw had outscored the Cavaliers on his own after the opening nine minutes.

Duke led by as many as 14 before the break, but Virginia closed the gap late in the first half after heating up and taking advantage of the Blue Devils’ nine first-half turnovers. At the half, Duke led, 39-35.

But to start the second half, Duke’s barrage from downtown continued, this time mostly at the hands of freshman Cam Reddish. The Norristown, Pa., native knocked down three attempts from deep in the first four minutes of the second half, giving the Blue Devils an eight-point advantage.

Although the Cavaliers pulled within five on two occasions, Duke never stopped answering with 3-point daggers.

Barrett finished with a game-high 26 points on 6-for-10 shooting from beyond the arc. He also had seven rebounds and three assists. However, he and fellow freshman Zion Williamson each committed five turnovers (Duke finished with 15 turnovers).

Williamson — who had 18 points, five rebounds, and five assists — made up for his turnovers, though, with three steals and three blocks, including a sensational swat on a 3-point attempt by Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter with 4:37 to play that left the Cavaliers with just five seconds remaining on the shot clock.

Reddish had 17 points — he was 5-for-8 from downtown — and had two rebounds, three assists, three steals, and two blocks.

Duke’s fourth freshman starter, point guard Tre Jones, was the fourth scorer in double figures with 13 points. He also had seven assists, six rebounds, and two steals.

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The Blue Devils next play at No. 16 Louisville on Tuesday at 9 p.m. (on ESPN).