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The Big Preview: Duke and Virginia Rematch

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

For the second straight game, Virginia Basketball has a rematch with a team above them in the ACC standings. Currently, the Wahoos are tied for fifth in the conference (but technically behind the Deacons due to the head-to-head loss). Another win over a top-10 Duke team will go along way towards getting Virginia into that top-4 ACC spot and also into the NCAA Tournament. A loss would just about knock Virginia out of that top-4 race, but would not be devastating to their NCAA hopes.

In the road win over Duke, Virginia got off to a scorching start against a sluggish Duke team.

Duke’s defense on this possession is poor. Franklin comes off a screen (and not even a great screen) and nobody steps up to defend him. ACC wings are not going to miss this shot. The Hoos scored on their first three possessions and eventually opened up a 12 point first half lead.

Duke was better in the second half and managed to come all the way back and take a small lead late in the game. But Reece Beekman’s late game heroics turned a loss into a win.

This is the highlight that was replayed over and over. But this was just as important.

Reece actually did not have a very strong game, in part due to foul trouble. He had some nice moments early on, and obviously had the game winner. But overall he went for just 7 points (on 3/7 FG) and 3 assists (0 turnovers and 2 steals though, including the huge one above).

Duke was led by big man Mark Williams. The seven footer had 16 points on seven FGA in only 19 minutes. He was in foul trouble for much of the game, and that was a big part of the Virginia win. Duke’s other big men, including projected lottery pick Paulo Banchero, were unable to get going against the Pack Line.

One of the biggest reasons Virginia won this game was turnovers. Virginia had just five TOs, while they forced 15 from Duke. Virginia had 10 fast break points, while Duke had just one.

As a side note, having a guy like Shedrick who just dunks everything is so much fun. We will forever call that the Jay Huff role.

The turnover differential also helped lead to a disparity in FGA for the two teams. Duke attempted 52 shots on the night, whereas Virginia attempted 65. Yes, some of that was due to fouls. Duke shot 18-22 FTs, while Virginia shot just 5-9. But the turnovers were important.

Duke is not a team that forces many turnovers, but they also do not commit many turnovers. Keeping up that disparity in FGA will be important. Duke has so many options on the offensive end, they are 10th nationally in offensive efficiency and 20th nationally in effective FG% (stats courtesy of kenpom.com). The best way to slow down Duke’s offense is not letting them shoot.

In the game, Virginia shot just 2-12 from downtown. Kihei Clark was 0-4 from three, but 4-7 on interior shots and also had nine assists with just two TOs.

This is Clark making something out of nothing. The play starts with Beekman trying to take Wendell Moore, but good defense from Moore stops that. Clark gets the ball with Jeremy Roach on him, but Roach just isn’t quick enough to stay in front of Kihei. None of the Duke defenders could stay with Clark, and it would become a theme later in the game.

These are back to back possessions, as Kihei almost single-handedly kept Virginia in the game as Duke made their run. Virginia had 16 made FGs in the second half. Clark either scored or assisted on ten of them. A tremendous game from the diminutive senior.

It can go the other way as well. Roach has seen his minutes decline since that game. He has come off the bench over the past two games (playing just 18 minutes in each), in favor of Trevor Keels. That makes Duke very big in the backcourt with 6’4” 221 Keels, 6’5” 213 Moore and 6’6” 222 AJ Griffin. We saw Keels take advantage of Kihei in the post last time out. That will happen again. But those three have little chance of staying in front of Clark (or Beekman probably). Virginia played well enough defensively last time, but they won the game by consistently getting into the paint and getting easy buckets against Duke’s defense.

Virginia scored 52 paint points in that game, which is very impressive considering Duke spent much of the game in a zone. Zones are generally designed to keep the ball away from the paint and force outside shots. Why is Virginia seeing a lot of zone this year? They can’t shoot. If this game turns into a three point shooting contest, Virginia is toast. But if Virginia continues to get the ball into the paint, they should be successful. Is that enough to knock off the Blue Devils for a second time?