Despite building a 13 point lead early on, head coach Mike Krzyzewski's team continuously failed to deliver a knockout blow despite numerous chances to do so. In the end, it would cost them not only a chance to move within one game of the ACC lead, but also put a serious damper on morale heading into the second half of the conference season - which includes double headers with the ACC's best team and arch rival North Carolina, and Maryland. Duke will also face Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, and Boston College - all of whom are among the top half of the standings.
With the capacity crowd at the brand new John Paul Jones Arena on their feet at the start, Duke methodically built an early six point lead thanks to an 8-0 run keyed by shooting of Greg Paulus to make it 12-6. The Blue Devils would continue to control the tempo throughout the opening 20 minutes while building up the lead to as many as 13 before a late 8-2 Cavalier rally cut it to 36-29 at intermission.
That momentum quickly carried into the second half as Virginia immediately reeled off a 6-2 run to cut the lead to three before the Blue Devils could find their footing on the offensive end. With the Cavaliers charging, Duke got a lift from freshman forward Lance Thomas, who scored back to back baskets inside, and hit the corresponding free throw on the second attempt to keep Duke ahead early. But, behind the stellar play of Reynolds and Singletary, Virginia kept chipping away until finally drawing even at 49 on three Reynolds free throws.
Then it seemed the young Blue Devils were ready to put their opponents away by immediately answering with a 10-2 run to build an eight point advantage with just 3:42 remaining on a lay-up by Josh McRoberts. That two point bucket would become important as it was also the last time Duke would convert a field goal - leaving the Blue Devils relying solely on their free throw shooting for the next eight plus minutes.
Unfortunately that wasn't enough to counter the brilliance of the high major backcourt duo on the opposing roster. Singletary and Reynolds, who battled cramps throughout the second half and overtime, continued to attack and draw their team closer - finally cutting it to two with 1:15 remaining. Then, after Duke couldn't get a good shot off in either of their final two possessions, Singletary knocked down a jumper over Paulus to tie the game. The last shot attempt clanged off the back iron by McRoberts and the game headed into overtime with the home team riding a huge wave of emotion that they would ride to a five game win streak in the league.
For Duke, McRoberts had a team high 19 points, while DeMarcus Nelson added 12. Paulus rounded out the double figure scorers list with 10 points on just 3-of-11 shooting - though the eight miss of the night was nearly a game winner on the desperation three pointer at the buzzer.
Singletary finished with 17 for Virginia, while Mamadi Diane added 14.
Duke returns home for the start of the second half of the league slate when they host Florida State in Cameron on Sunday night.