Duke hits from out­side to beat Vir­ginia again

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - 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, 8171, on Feb. 9 in a matchup of league heavy­weights ahead of the Feb. 11 new AP Top 25 poll.

That se­cured a reg­u­larsea­son sweep of the reign­ing league cham­pion Cava­liers.

Now the Blue Devils (212, 9-1 ACC) hold the headto-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 shots are fall­ing.

Duke en­tered Feb. 9 shoot­ing 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.

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