In December, AP voter Graham Couch refused to include Duke in his Top 25 ranking because the Blue Devils hadn’t played a “true” road game. Never mind the fact that they opened the season with an impressive neutral-site win over Kentucky or ran through a tough Maui Invitational field before pushing then top-ranked Gonzaga to the brink, Couch was on a personal crusade to prove a point. I’m still figuring out that point, but it was important enough to him to eliminate undoubtedly one of the best teams in the country from his top 25 rankings.
Fast forward about 8 weeks. Duke is now an NCAA leading 6-1 versus AP Top 15 ranked teams and 5-1 in games away from Cameron Indoor – including two “true” away games against then #13 Florida State and #3 UVA.
Saturday’s 81-71 victory against Virgina at John Paul Jones arena was arguably their most defining to date – a definitive win against a top 3 veteran team where they were tested, but always made a big play to keep the Cavaliers at bay. But it was their ability to jump out to an early 8 point lead, spurred by back-to-back 3-pointers by RJ Barrett, that would set the tone for the remainder of the contest.
“Three-pointers are there every game,” Barrett said after his game-high 26-point outing. “It’s a matter of if you make them or not. Today they were there and we made them. When I hit the first one, personally I knew I was going to have a night. We just kept rolling, kept making them, making them and making great plays. it was good.”
“We were fortunate we won. It’s the best we’ve shot from the three-point, and obviously, it’s a huge difference,” Coach K added. “They’re outstanding, and we’re really good too and it was that game. We feel very thankful that we won. I’m proud of my guys, but we beat a heck of a team, and they’re a great program. We’re just obviously very pleased.”
Saturday’s win begins a tough stretch for the Blue Devils which has them hosting N.C. State and North Carolina before traveling to Syracuse and Virginia Tech.
Oh, and remember Graham Couch who, even though blantanly wrong, was dead set on proving a point? I wonder who he has in his top three now.
- Freshman RJ Barrett hit five three-pointers (5-of-7) in the first half, to set a career-high for a game. He finished 6-of-10 from three-point range and led all scorers with 26 points on 8-of-15 shooting.
- Freshman Zion Williamson entered the game needing 16 points to reach 500 points for the season. He finished with 18, becoming the second-fastest freshman in Duke history to score 500 points in a season (23 games). The record is held by Barrett, who did it in 22 games. It is the first time in school history a pair of teammates has scored 500+ points in less than 24 games.
- Freshman Cam Reddish was 5-of-8 from three-point range and scored 17 points. He is averaging 4.3 made
threes over the last three games — was averaging 2.4 over the first 19 games this season.
- Freshman Tre Jones was Duke’s fourth player in double-figures with 13 points, six rebounds, seven assists and
- The Blue Devils improved to 9-1 in ACC play, their best start to an ACC season since beginning the 2010-11
season 12-1 in conference play.
- Duke out-scored Virginia in fast-break points, 17-0. Duke has allowed two total fast-break points over the last