No. 2 Duke hits from out­side to beat Vir­ginia

Texarkana Gazette - - SPORTS - By Aaron Beard

RALEIGH, N.C.— Se­con­dranked Duke got rolling from 3-point range, then took a big step toward win­ning the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence reg­u­lar-sea­son race.

The Blue Devils beat third-ranked Vir­ginia 81-71 on Sat­ur­day night in a matchup of league heavy­weights ahead of Mon­day’s new AP Top 25 poll. That se­cured a reg­u­lar-sea­son sweep of the reign­ing league cham­pion Cava­liers.

Now the Blue Devils (21-2, 9-1 ACC) hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Cava­liers (20-2, 8-2) en­ter­ing the fi­nal month of the sched­ule, which will make it tougher for Vir­ginia to catch them in the stand­ings. Vir­ginia’s two losses to Duke mean the Cava­liers have lost more games against league op­po­nents this year com­pared with its 20-1 run dur­ing last year’s reg­u­lar-sea­son and tour­na­ment ti­tles.

Maybe more im­por­tantly, Duke’s tor­rid 3-point shoot­ing showed how dif­fi­cult it will be for any team—in­side or out­side the league—to stop the Blue Devils if their out­side shot is fall­ing.

Duke en­tered Sat­ur­day shoot­ing just 30.8 per­cent from be­hind the arc, rank­ing 13th among the ACC’s 15 teams. That is on pace to fin­ish as by far the worst mark in pro­gram his­tory, and Duke had made 14 of 50 3s (28 per­cent) in the two games en­ter­ing its trip to Char­lottesville.

But with the Cava­liers work­ing to clog the lane, Duke made 13 of 21 tries against a de­fense that ranks No. 3 in KenPom’s ad­justed de­fen­sive ef­fi­ciency (86.4 points al­lowed per 100 pos­ses­sions).

If the Blue Devils are able to stretch de­fenses that well go­ing for­ward, there will be even more driv­ing lanes for fresh­man stars RJ Bar­rett and Zion Wil­liamson in a sched­ule that still in­cludes Tues­day’s trip to No. 16 Louisville as well as two matchups with No. 8 North Carolina.

“They have some spe­cial play­ers in what they can do,” Vir­ginia coach Tony Bennett said af­ter­ward. “It’s not just if you’re re­ally tight on them, they cer­tainly can beat you off the drib­ble and get on the glass, but they weren’t miss­ing many.”

ACC CO-LEAD­ERS

Duke isn’t alone atop the ACC. Ri­val UNC is there, too.

UNC (19-4) beat North Carolina State on Tues­day by scor­ing 113 points, its best out­put in a league game in more than 15 years. Then the Tar Heels hung on to beat strug­gling Mi­ami 88-85 in over­time Sat­ur­day in a game fea­tur­ing big shot af­ter big shot, pri­mar­ily be­tween UNC fresh­man point guard Coby White (33 points) and 5-foot-7 Mi­ami guard Chris Lykes (27 points).

That put the Tar Heels at 9-1 in the ACC for the first time in 16 sea­sons un­der Hall of Fame coach Roy Wil­liams en­ter­ing an­other mar­quee game: Mon­day’s visit from Vir­ginia.

STILL ROLLING

Top-ranked Ten­nessee is still rolling along.

The Vol­un­teers (22-1, 10-0 South­east­ern Con­fer­ence) won two games by a dozen points this week, beat­ing Mis­souri and Florida to push their school-record win­ning streak to 18 games. It’s the na­tion’s long­est ac­tive streak and now stands as the long­est for coach Rick Barnes in a ca­reer span­ning more than three decades.

“The fact of the mat­ter is I just say, ‘Let’s win the next one, let’s try to win the next game,’ be­cause wins are hard to come by at any point in time,” Vol­un­teers coach Rick Barnes said. “The fact that they’ve done what they’ve done, they get the credit for it, but I’ve never thought about win streaks or any of that.”

WOLVERINES SLOW HAPP

Sev­enth-ranked Michi­gan (22-2, 11-2 Big Ten) beat No. 19 Wis­con­sin on Sat­ur­day, aveng­ing its first loss this sea­son. It helped that the Wolverines had a bet­ter day against Badgers for­ward Ethan Happ in Round 2.

Happ, a pre­sea­son As­so­ci­ated Press All-Amer­i­can, had 26 points, 10 re­bounds and seven as­sists with just one turnover in the first meet­ing . The 6-foot-10 se­nior still had a dou­ble-dou­ble (18 points, 11 re­bounds) in the re­match, but he had just one as­sists with five of Wis­con­sin’s seven turnovers.

TIP-INS

Fifth-ranked Ken­tucky (20-3, 9-1 SEC) pushed its win streak to 10 games by beat­ing South Carolina and Mis­sis­sippi State . … Ninthranked Michi­gan State (19-5, 10-3 Big Ten) had lost three straight games be­fore Sat­ur­day’s vic­tory over Min­nesota. … Markus Howard went for 38 points in No. 10 Mar­quette’s vic­tory over No. 14 Vil­lanova, mark­ing his third 30-point out­put in four games. … No. 11 Vir­ginia Tech (18-5, 7-4 ACC) was the only ranked team to suf­fer a two-loss week, fall­ing to Louisville and Clem­son while fail­ing to reach 65 points each time with point guard Justin Robin­son out in­def­i­nitely be­cause of an in­jury.

Mark Gor­mus/Richmond Times-Dis­patch via AP

■ Duke’s Zion Wil­liamson, left, RJ Bar­rett (5) and Cam Red­dish cel­e­brate the team’s 81-71 vic­tory over Vir­ginia on Sat­ur­day dur­ing an NCAA col­lege bas­ket­ball game in Char­lottesville, Va.

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