Where the Cavaliers flourished was defense, as they held Duke to 22 points in the first half and kept the Blue Devils’ three-point shooting at bay with an 0-for-7 clip in the first 20 minutes.
But it’s more than toughness. Carter added 14 points and 15 rebounds.
The Blue Devils made no three-pointers in the first half and finished 4-for-14 from beyond the arc.
Virginia had lost 17 straight here, and No. 18 was on the horizon.
On the verge of a seventh consecutive 20-win season, all the Cavaliers (19-1, 8-0 ACC) have to do is point to its record. They could be previewing a Final Four matchup.
Svi Mykhailiuk scored 24 points and No. 5 Kansas shot 12-for-26 from three as they smacked around Texas A&M in Phog Allen Fieldhouse.
“Absolutely”, Hall said. “How could you not think about it?”
“Definitely was surprised (Jerome) took it”, Duval said. “I thought the game was a tale of two halves”.
“One time, he called time out, and he was still going at the refs”, sophomore guard Ty Jerome said.
Some folks might say Bennett’s packline, smothering defense and slow, hot-potato offense make for a boring product. Freshman guard Gary Trent Jr.is averaging 21.2 points per game in the same time frame. During a stoppage moments later, Cavaliers senior forward Isaiah Wilkins screamed in exultation, as if releasing more than two decades of frustration.
That’s age. That’s confidence.
On the season, Virginia basketball averages 69.2 points, 33.0 rebounds and 13.8 assists per game.
“It definitely gets kind of annoying”, he added about the criticism that Virginia’s style of play is not pleasing to the eye. Virginia for years has been known for their defense but this year are showing that they can score on offense as well. Guy had a team-leading 17 points, followed by Hall with 14, Jerome with 13 and Hunter with 12. Similarly, Wendell Carter Jr put up a stat line of 14 points, 15 rebounds, and 4 blocks. They made sure Duke didn’t go on a run to make a comeback impossible.
“I’m going to worry about my team, I’m going to worry about the survivors and I’m going to worry about what I do”, said Izzo, who also denied reports that he plans to retire. He was 2-9 in his career against the Blue Devils, so he hasn’t beaten them that often on any court. And with No. 10 North Carolina losing 95-91 to North Carolina State in overtime, Saturday marked the first day since 1973 that both the Tar Heels and Blue Devils lost on the same day. And in ending one of the most ignominious droughts in program history with a 65-63 win against No. 4 Duke on Saturday afternoon, the Cavaliers announced themselves as national contenders.
They also seem to realize their limitations and understand the slog that is the ACC.
The defense won it, and that could be Virginia coach Tony Bennett’s ticket to his first Final Four.
Tobacco Road’s top half did not have a nice little Saturday.
“My wife was sitting right behind me”, Bennett said. “It’s not even who is the best team, it’s who plays the best”.