Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett Lead No. 1 Duke Past De'Andre Hunter, No. 4 Virginia

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJanuary 20, 2019

DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA - JANUARY 19: Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts after scoring against the Virginia Cavaliers during the first half of their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 19, 2019 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The last undefeated team in Division I men's college basketball finally fell Saturday, as the No. 1 Duke Blue Devils beat the No. 4 Virginia Cavaliers 72-70 at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina.

Virginia fell to 16-1 on the season, and with Michigan's loss to Wisconsin earlier in the day, there are no undefeated teams remaining.

Meanwhile, the Blue Devils improved to 15-2 and may have done enough to preserve their No. 1 ranking despite losing to Syracuse on Monday.

Based on Saturday's result, there is now a six-way tie atop the ACC at 4-1, with Duke and Virginia among those in the mix.

With Duke starting point guard Tre Jones out because of a separated AC joint suffered Monday against Syracuse, the offensive burden fell even more on the shoulders of RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson.

Duke's superstar freshmen were up to the task, as Barrett finished with 30 points, five rebounds and three assists, while Williamson added 27 points and nine rebounds.

The rest of Duke's players combined for just 15 points.

It was a three-man show for UVA with leading scorers De'Andre Hunter, Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome combining to score 46 of the team's 70 points.

Hunter led the way with 18 points and four rebounds, Guy contributed 14 points and six rebounds, and Jerome chipped in 14 points, four assists and four boards.

While both teams shot over 50 percent from the field, they struggled from beyond the arc, as Virginia went just 3-of-17, and Duke went 2-of-14.

Duke and Virginia were nip and tuck throughout Saturday's game, although the Blue Devils led for much of the first half.

They also had the impact-play advantage over the Cavs, and none was more impactful than this monstrous dunk by Williamson that saw him run through the vaunted Virginia defense:

Duke led by five at halftime, but Virginia came out of the locker room effectively and seized a one-point lead six minutes into the second half.

The Cavaliers and Blue Devils traded buckets for the next several minutes and showed why they are perhaps the two best teams in the ACC.

With Duke leading 61-60, Barrett took control by hitting jumpers on back-to-back possessions to stretch the Blue Devils' lead to five with just over two minutes remaining.

A Guy trifecta with 26 seconds left shrunk the Duke lead to three after Williamson missed a pair of free throws, but Barrett came through in the clutch from the foul line down the stretch and secured the win for Duke.

     

Duke's Offense Too Predictable Without Tre Jones

Jones often gets overshadowed by the likes of Williamson, Barrett and Cam Reddish, but it was clear Saturday that Duke missed his presence on the court.

Entering Saturday's game, the Blue Devils were averaging 90.3 points and 18.4 assists per game as a team.

They fell well below those averages against Virginia with just 72 points and six assists.

Part of that can be attributed to the fact that the Cavaliers are an elite defensive team, but there is no question that the Duke offense had a different look without Jones.

As pointed out by Duke Basketball, the Blue Devils largely relied on one-on-one play rather than the more intricate passing plays Jones is known for:

Dana O'Neil of The Athletic also noted that Jones' absence led to Williamson and Barrett having to do even more individually than usual:

While Williamson and Barrett are skilled at creating their own shots, their ball-handling and decision-making usually pale in comparison to that of Jones.

Reddish also had more responsibility as a distributor, and that resulted in him committing four turnovers, which can often be the kiss of death against UVA.

Most of Duke's offense consisted of Barrett and Williamson holding the ball before driving to the hoop and initiating contact.

That worked to some degree, but it prevented Duke from getting clean looks from beyond the arc, which is something Jones is often able to create.

Pure physical talent carried Duke on Saturday, but if the Blue Devils are going to go deep in the NCAA tournament and potentially win a national title, Jones will likely have a major hand in it.

     

Lack of Secondary Scoring Precludes Virginia from National Title Contention

The trio of Hunter, Guy and Jerome carried Virginia offensively on Saturday, but they went just 3-of-14 from beyond the arc against Duke.

While they are generally far more accurate from long range, Saturday was a perfect example of why they need other players to step up and become consistent offensive contributors.

Braxton Key did add 11 points off the bench, but the rest of the bench went for just six points, while starters Mamadi Diakite and Jack Salt combined for seven.

Duke was able to survive with just Barrett and Williamson scoring since they are arguably the two best players in college basketball, but when the Blue Devils have their usual starting lineup in place, the likes of Reddish, Jones and Jack White generally do more on the offensive end.

There has been no indication this season that anyone is poised to step up and lend proper support to Hunter, Guy and Jerome at UVA, however.

Although there aren't many games where that triumvirate shoots as poorly as it did from long range against Duke, it is bound to happen at times.

Virginia can get away with it against most teams, but when it comes to facing elite squads like Duke in the NCAA tournament, the Cavaliers may not have enough overall offensive firepower to compete.

The Cavs look to be a better team this season than the one that was upset as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament last season, however, they can't be expected to go the distance unless their depth of scoring improves in the coming weeks.

     

What's Next?

Duke is set for a five-game stretch against unranked opponents beginning with Tuesday's road game against the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Virginia also has a favorable schedule coming up, including a home game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Tuesday.

Duke and Virginia will meet again on Feb. 9 when the Cavaliers host the Blue Devils in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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