Duke shows another gear with sweep of Vir­ginia

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY AARON BEARD

RALEIGH, N.C. | Sec­ond-ranked 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 school­record 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,” Barnes said.

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.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

If Duke con­tin­ues to stretch de­fenses, there will be more driv­ing lanes for fresh­man stars RJ Bar­rett, Zion Wil­liamson (left) and Cam Red­dish.

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