Duke vs. Virginia score: Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett lead the No. 1 Blue Devils past the No. 4 Cavaliers
Duke survived a scare and pulled out an impressive victory vs. Virginia
Not all marquee matchups live up to the hype that precede them, but this one did.
No. 1 Duke's 72-70 victory vs. No. 4 Virginia on Saturday night capped a remarkable day full of college hoops, living up to -- and maybe even exceeding -- the buzz it generated. All told, there were 15 lead changes, 14 ties and one entertaining back-and-forth battle that the Blue Devils won in front of their rowdy fans at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke handed the Cavaliers, who came into the game as the nation's last undefeated team following Michigans loss to Wisconsin earlier in the day, their first loss of the season.
Only five days removed from a career-high 35-point night, Zion Williamson finished with 27 points and nine rebounds on 10-of-16 shooting. Just as Draymond Green provides the soul and spirit of Golden State, Williamson does -- and did Saturday -- for Duke via rim-rattling jams, two-handed blocks and unrelenting energy.
RJ Barrett led Duke (15-2, 4-1 ACC) in scoring with 30 points on efficient 11-of-19 shooting, and strung together arguably his best start-to-finish game of the season. In the absence of injured point guard Tre Jones, Barrett, in addition to being Duke's most productive scorer, also served as the go-to facilitator for the Blue Devils, finishing with a team-high three assists.
Nothing came very easy for either team. Virginia (16-1, 4-1) made only 3 of 17 3-pointers, and Duke, facing the No. 1 3-point defense, fared worse, knocking down 2 of 14 3-pointers. It was a well-played game overall, clean with no slop, but considering the caliber of each team's offense, this was a surprisingly great defensive struggle that had old school college hoops vibes (with a heavy dosage of Zion Williamson).
Duke's win over the No. 4 Virginia Cavaliers comes days after the Blue Devils,who lost Jones midway through a loss to Syracuse. So a significant bounceback for the Blue Devils considering the circumstances, and a consequential win that will age with grace as they aim to keep their ACC regular-season title hopes afloat -- and their No. 1 seed hopes in the NCAA Tournament intact.
Duke's victory, paired with Kansas' loss at West Virginia, will put the Blue Devils back as a No. 1 seed in Jerry Palm's Bracketology, taking the Jayhawks' place on the top line.
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