No. 2 Duke led wire to wire at No. 3 Virginia, posting its second win over the Cavaliers in three weeks, 81-71, in Charlottesville on Saturday.
It was just the 17th game between top-three teams in ACC history and first since 2008. The win tied Duke with UNC atop the conference at 9-1 and dropped Virginia a game behind.
Duke was able to take control of the game early, scoring the game’s first eight points. Virginia would cut the lead to four at halftime but never get any closer.
The Blue Devils, who have struggled with the outside shot all season, exploded with 13 three-pointers on the night, their most since hitting 15 in the second game of the season. RJ Barrett hit his first five threes and finished 6-of-10 from outside. Cam Reddish was 5-of-8.
Duke hit 61.9 percent of its three-point shots, the team’s highest rate in five years.
“Three-pointers are there every game. It’s a matter of if you make them or not,” Barrett said. “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.”
Barrett was the game’s leading scorer, with 26. Zion Williamson added 18 and Reddish 17.
The game attracted some high-profile attendees, as LeBron James and his Los Angeles Lakers teammate Rajon Rondo had seats next to the basket on the Duke bench side of the floor.
The Blue Devils freshmen, who are expected to join James and Rondo in the NBA after one college season, downplayed the attention from the NBA legend.
“LeBron was here?” Williamson asked, tongue in cheek. “Really?”
When asked if he said anything to James, Barrett answered, “No. I didn’t have to.”
Barrett later added, “It was great to have him. He’s the best player in the world.”
Tre Jones said he didn’t notice James until after halftime, when Duke was shooting at the basket where he sat. “I think he stood up,” Jones said. “And then, he’s kind of hard to miss.”
The point guard sounded more excited to get the chance to play in front of Rondo, however. “I grew up watching him,” he said.
Jones missed the first matchup with Virginia, recovering from a shoulder injury. He scored 13 in the rematch with seven assists. He also hit a key three-pointer midway through the second half to snap a UVa run that cut the Duke lead to five.
“Tre’s not given much credit for his shooting, scoring with passing and defense, but tonight he made a couple big-time shots,” Coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Duke has now posted the two highest point totals of the season against Virginia’s defense, with 81 on Saturday and 72 in the first meeting. Maryland scored 71 in November. The most any other ACC foe has scored is 65, by NC State in overtime.
Krzyzewski extended his NCAA record with his 16th career win against a team ranked in the top five. Duke is 6-1 against Top 15 teams this season, 5-1 away from Durham.