After a hot start that saw Redick and Ewing score 24 points before the midway point of the first half, the Blue Devils quickly found a very game Virginia team that refused to back down. In fact the early run seemed to awaken the Virginia defense as Duke's ability to find easy baskets quickly vanished, especially the open looks from the perimeter. Duke also suffered the loss of prized freshman Luol Deng to an injured back early in the game.
Unlike last year, when Duke would have continued to take jump shots, the offense quickly began to focus on getting the ball inside to Shelden Williams and Shavlik Randolph. Along with the inside scoring, Duke also began to get penetration from Duhon, Ewing, and Redick, which eventually led to a tiring of the defense along with a number of fouls.
The ball movement was also very good as Duke logged assists on 17 of the 29 made field goal attempts. Coach K's troops also managed to shoot 27-of-34 from the free throw line on the night, while Virginia only attempted 20 shots from the charity stripe.
In addition the battle of the boards went decidedly to Duke to the tune of a 38-25 overall advantage while the Blue Devils managed to pull in 14 offensive rebounds.
With the balanced offensive effort beginning to take control, Duke also began to turn up the defensive effort. On the night Duke finished with eight blocked shots, and 10 steals while forcing 15 turnovers. Virginia did manage to get hot midway through the game, shooting 47% on the night, though when crunch time began to set in the Cavaliers quickly found their ability to get open looks severely diminished.
It was heartening to see Shavlik Randolph getting good minutes inside, and making the most of them. The big man is continually trying to figure things out, and you can see he's getting closer and closer as the season wears on.
What Went Wrong:
Duke played very well on the offensive end on the night with Redick and Ewing, however the early injuries to Deng and later Shelden Williams saw Coach K insert players who don't normally get a lot of PT and it quickly showed on the defensive end as a number of easy baskets were given up.
When Virginia began to pick up the defensive effort, it forced Duke to become much more methodical on the offensive end of the floor which leaked over into the defensive effort. That, along with some good shooting from the Cavaliers, enabled the nine point halftime advantage to shrink quickly to just three points.
Player of the Game:
Despite the early flurry from J.J. Redick and Daniel Ewing, the most important Blue Devil on the night was Shelden Williams. The continually improving big man ended up with 19 points and 12 rebounds, while blocking four shots in the effort. More importantly, Williams finished 7-of-9 from the free throw line.
The injuries to Luol Deng, Shelden Williams, and Sean Dockery need to heal quickly as Duke will travel to Raleigh on Sunday night for a key conference showdown with a very surprising North Carolina State team. It's easily the most important game in a while for Duke as State has managed to go 8-2 in conference play, sitting just two games off the lead in the conference.
Last time Duke easily defeated the Wolfpack in Cameron, but Herb Sendek's team has been a completely different animal in the ESA. Duke will need to put together a complete effort on both ends of the floor if they want to effectively lock up another regular season title.