The Devil's Due
You can't withhold it from him. He demands it. Just give it to him.
When it was 17-9 Duke, the Blue Devils were 5-5 from the three-point line.
When it was 22-11 Duke, the Devils were 6-7 from three.
When it was 39-35 Duke at the half, they were 8-10 from the arc.
When it was 57-49 Duke, they were 12-16 from three.
Duke shot 80% from three in the first half, then "fell back" to 45% (5-11) in the second half.
The team from Durham was shooting 29% on the season. The team from Charlottesville was giving up 24%.
If they went 2-5 to start and put back one of their misses, it would have been 10-9.
If they went 3-7 and put back two of their misses, it would have been 17-11.
If they went 5-10 and put back two of their misses, it would have been 34-35.
If they went 8-16 and put back 2 of their misses it would have been 49-49.
Duke's three-point shooting was the entire story of the game. If they even shot just a conceivably high percentage for them, it is a completely different game.
That's not to say "Duke just got lucky and we shoulda won." Because if the teams played ten times at JPJ, I would bet on Duke to shoot that way 8 of them. Their energy was really good. They were well-prepared. They were laser-focused. They shot so far out of their league because that's who they are. It was what they needed to do to conquer the opponent.
Duke's team transcends the game. Their defense is terrible; their defense is great. They make mistakes all over the floor, but they play really hard and are so athletic - including those less obvious traits of athleticism as anticipation and reaction time - that they can recover to wipe out their mistakes and still stuff you. Time and again, Virginia's players saw something and made their move - just to find a Duke body directly in the way or coming out of nowhere to take away Virginia's option. More often than not, the Virginia player was caught with no good alternative. Shots were blocked, balls were stripped or thrown away.
And still Virginia was just one good possession away from being in the game at the end. Just one of those late clock threes bounces off the rim into Virginia hands, and we might be writing a different story.
Zion Williamson is a force of nature. RJ Barrett is Carlos the Jackal. Barrett is clearly the best player in college basketball - except for Zion Williamson. Cam Reddish is a 6-8 guard. Tre Jones is one of the best freshman point guards in years. Marques Bolden was the #1 center in his class - he was Marvin Bagley before Marvin Bagley, Zion Williamson before Zion Williamson (the top recruit who suddenly jumps to Duke late just when their need was great) - and he gets forgotten.
Everybody for Virginia struggled, but Mamadi Diakite had a strong ten minutes before Jack White shoved him into De'Andre Hunter and broke his head, with 7 of Virginia's first 9 points - and the assist on the other two. He grabbed a defensive rebound just before the headbang. He was giving Zion fits whenever the Wondrous Z had the ball. Ty Jerome was Virginia's best player, bad back and all, with 16 points on 6-11 shooting, 4 assists and 3 steals to cancel out his 3 turnovers. All of that gave him his team-leading 20 SPI. Kyle Guy had some horrible stretches, but he finished with 16 points and it was his 8-point explosion at the end of the first half that sent the Hoos into the locker room down only 4.
Jack Salt was the Glue Hoo of the Game with a 13 Glue Index in 71 Possessions Played. He contributed to success with 5 RebA's (Rebound Assists), 3 Screens, 3 Man, a Tip and a Save. His 16 SPI was third.
Braxton Key finished poorly but otherwise played a fabulous game. He tied with Salt for Glue Index, and his 17 SPI was right behind Jerome, despite not scoring well. Braxton was Virginia's best rebounder with 10 boards, 3 RebA's and 4 Tips. Braxton was sensational on defense, contributing to the excellent interior defense of the Hoos that limited Duke to 18 paint touches with a team-leading 10 SPID (tie with Jerome and Salt), 2 blocks and 2 steals, and excellent man-to-man defense against Williamson.
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