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Four takeaways from Virginia’s season-altering win over Duke

HOOS WIN HOOS WIN HOOS WIN

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

The Virginia Cavaliers came out on top of Duke Blue Devils in an absolute THRILLER of a game that was decided in the final seconds by a Reece Beekman triple as the ‘Hoos pulled out on top, 69-68 and advance to 15-9 on the season and 9-5 in the ACC.

Reece Beekman is CLUTCH

Just like he did against Syracuse in the ACC Tournament last season, Reece Beekman hit the game-winning shot in what was undoubtedly the biggest play of his career to date. Beekman has been on the rise all season long and came up huge when it mattered the absolute most.

He only finished with seven points and three assists on the night but the sophomore won this game for the ‘Hoos in an incredibly difficult environment. This shot will go down in the history of the Virginia basketball program just as Ty Jerome’s game-clinching triple did in Cameron back in 2018 and the Sean Singletary winner in JPJ back in 2007.

This win changes Virginia’s outlook on the season

Boy oh boy does this win mean absolutely everything for this team right now. With three straight wins including two against arguably the two best teams in the conference, Tony Bennett’s team is cooking right now and is primed for a late season run that could propel them into the NCAA Tournament.

Now at 9-5 in the ACC, the ‘Hoos have a real shot at a top-four seed and the double bye in the ACC Tournament.

And, really, whatever happens the rest of the way for this group, Virginia beat Duke in Cameron Indoor in Mike Kryzewski’s final game against the Wahoos in that setting. That is as good as it gets and for many makes this season of ups and downs and inconsistencies all worth it.

Another team win

UVA doesn’t have the talent that Duke does, but the Wahoos relied on the collective sum of their parts to pull out the victory over the Blue Devils. Three guys scored in double figures while another three had seven or more points.

In one way or another, every Wahoo who stepped on the floor tonight had his moment and made his mark. Kihei Clark went for eight points and nine assists. Jayden Gardner finished with 17 points and eight rebounds. Beekman hit the game winner. Caffaro gave the ‘Hoos an offensive punch on the low block with eight. Kadin Shedrick was perfect from the field and had a breakout performance for 16 points in 24 minutes.

That is UVA basketball at its absolute finest. That is Tony Bennett basketball. And — just as Virginia has become the cream of the crop in the ACC over the past decade — Tony Bennett’s way trumped Kyrzewski’s when the lights were brightest.

The ‘Hoos dominate the paint and play clean ball

A game against Duke in Cameron Indoor is a game at an inherent disadvantage, and this game was no different. Time and time again the referees bailed out the Blue Devils. On the game, Duke shot 13 more free throws than the ‘Hoos as it felt as though there was no escaping the zebras’ whistles.

Nevertheless, Virginia stayed true to its game as Gardner, Shedrick, and Caffaro battled on the interior against the nation’s best and the Wahoo guards made an emphasis to attack the paint. Overall, UVA outscored Duke 52-28 in the paint which is absolutely absurd all things considered.

Virginia also only turned the ball over five times in the game and didn’t give the ball up once in the final 9:30 of play. Considering UVA struggled to make shots all night long, taking care of the ball was critical down the stretch.

All in all, this win is season altering for the ‘Hoos. It puts them in the NCAA Tournament conversation and indicates that this group has turned a corner. When Tony Bennett gets his guys pointed in the right direction late in ACC play, watch out because there’s no telling what they can do.