For a moment, it looked like No. 4 Duke was going to pull out an improbable win in its showdown with No. 2 Virginia at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday.
With 1:09 left and Virginia leading by two points, Duke’s Trevon Duval rebounded a missed Kyle Guy three-point shot.
“Throughout the whole game, I thought we were going to win,” Duval said.
Despite trailing for more than 26 minutes in the game, by as many as 13 points, Duke had a chance to tie or pull ahead in the final minute.
The ball was in the freshman point guard’s hands, and he immediately saw freshman big man Wendell Carter Jr. streaking down court. Carter had already scored 14 points and pulled down 15 rebounds in the game, not to mention his four assists and four blocks.
Now, Duval had the chance to let Carter tie the game.
“I saw it for a split second,” Duval said. “He was open.”
Instead of bringing the ball up court, using clock and running a play, Duval threw a long pass to Carter.
“Then I remember that as soon as it was on my fingertips [I thought], ‘Man, I shouldn’t have thrown that pass,’” Duval said. “Because they all get back fast on defense right away.”
Virginia’s suffocating defense has given ACC foes fits all year, and Duke was no exception on Saturday. The Blue Devils had 16 turnovers and shot just 37 percent in the first half, 0-for-7 from 3-point range, as the Cavs built a 10-point halftime lead. Virginia also snapped Duke’s 16-game streak of scoring at least 80 points, the fifth-longest streak in ACC history.
Virginia got back on defense one more time, producing turnover number 16, when Ty Jerome stepped in front of Duval’s pass, sticking a pin in Duke’s comeback hopes.
“He looked like a free safety going down the middle and grabbing that one,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said, “because they were hurting us a little bit in transition.”
“That pass really didn’t have a chance,” Duval said.
A few seconds later, Jerome hit a dagger of a three-pointer, sealing Virginia’s 65-63 win.
“That’s a very confident guy,” Grayson Allen said of Jerome, “and we saw on film – he makes huge plays for them. He does that often so you really can’t be surprised by it. And you can’t be surprised that it goes in either because big players make big shots like that.”
It was the first time the Cavs won at Duke since 1995, and the first time Duke has lost a top five showdown at Cameron to any ACC team other than UNC. The Blue Devils had been 5-0 against the rest of the ACC in those situations.
Despite the loss, the disappointed Blue Devils weren’t ready to panic.
“It’s January 27,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We’re a hell of a lot better than we were on December 27, and the league is going to make us even better, as long as we stay healthy. So on February 27, we hope to be even better.”
That includes his point guard, who had eight assists on the day, and a costly turnover going for his ninth.
“Obviously, you don’t want to make it at that time, unless it’s completely clear,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s a mistake of commission, not omission, so that’s good. You’re down by two and you’ve got the ball, so it’s got to be completed or you run half-court offense, and it wasn’t. It was a big play, but that didn’t lose the game for us. We missed some free throws and then they got a couple big offensive rebounds and then Jerome hit a really big shot for them, which he has. Look, they’re really good. You do a little bit wrong and they can punish you for it, and they did.”