Virginia basketball vs. Duke: Cavaliers lead all the way in 73-68 victory over No. 3 Blue Devils


Virginia fans pack John Paul Jones arena in Charlottesville as the Cavaliers hound the Blue Devils before clinching an upset critical to their NCAA tournament at-large hopes. (Steve Helber/ASSOCIATED PRESS)
February 28, 2013

When Virginia took the floor in front of a sellout crowd that filled the seats at John Paul Jones Arena long before tip-off, it had been 11 years to the day since the Cavaliers last pulled off an upset of a top-five team.

Junior Joe Harris ensured they would have to wait no longer.

To the delight of 14,593 fans, many of whom stormed the court in celebration, Virginia pulled off its biggest win of the season, defeating No. 3 Duke, 73-68, in a game it never trailed.

It will go down as the Cavaliers’ first victory over one of the nation’s elite since besting then-No. 3 Duke on Feb. 28, 2002. But perhaps more important, this was the sort of signature victory Virginia’s NCAA tournament profile had been lacking.

The Cavaliers’ latest triumph came about in typical fashion for a Tony Bennett-coached team. Virginia (20-8, 10-5 ACC) controlled the pace, played menacing defense and watched its leading scorer outshine his more heralded Duke counterparts.

Harris set a new career with 36 points on 12-for-20 shooting, the most points any player has scored in an ACC game this season. The performance had Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski calling Harris one of the best players in the country.

Once Virginia jumped out to a 15-4 lead after tallying the game’s first seven points, Harris kept the Blue Devils at bay whenever they threatened to grab hold of the momentum. He scored timely baskets on jump shots, post-ups and drives, showing off his full arsenal of skills. After it was over, Harris was as diplomatic as ever, admitting this was the finest showing of his college career only when forced to by a reporter’s question.

“I was just really focused and trying to win the game,” he said. “Fortunate enough, I was able to make a few baskets.”

His teammates and coaches boasted for him, though.

“When Joe gets that look in his eye that he’s not gonna be denied, he’s hard to stop because of his strength and size,” Bennett said. “We saw this coming. I don’t know if I saw 36 and seven [rebounds] coming.”

The only other remaining player from Bennett’s initial recruiting class at Virginia, forward Akil Mitchell, aided Harris’s cause with 19 points and 12 rebounds. With Duke senior Ryan Kelly still out with a foot injury, Mitchell and a steady array of double teams were pivotal in turning ACC player of the year candidate Mason Plumlee (10 points on just five shots in 40 minutes) into a non-factor on a night when the Cavaliers were physically tougher and outrebounded the bigger Blue Devils (24-4, 11-4).

Senior Seth Curry led Duke with 28 points, much of it coming in the final four minutes of the game when the Blue Devils attempted to mount a furious comeback. But Harris and Mitchell combined to hit 19 of their 22 free throws, refusing to allow another opportunity to impress the NCAA tournament selection committee to slip away.

The anticipation for Thursday night’s game was palpable even as the two teams warmed up, with Virginia’s student section completely full more than 30 minutes before tip-off. Backed by several thunderous roars from the first sellout crowd of the season, the Cavaliers’ first win over the Blue Devils since Feb. 1, 2007 began about as well as Bennett could have imagined. They entered halftime up, 28-23.

Duke opened the second half with a three-pointer by Curry, but it wasn’t long before the Cavaliers went on a quick 12-2 spurt, getting eight straight points off free throws. Two were the result of a technical foul called on Blue Devils guard Rasheed Sulaimon. Krzyzewski, who complained about a lack of security for his team when Virginia’s fans rushed the floor during his postgame news conference, spent an entire media timeout chewing out official Roger Ayers on the sideline about the call.

But by that point, the Cavaliers’ lead had grown to 12 again, and the orange-and-blue-clad faithful couldn’t have been happier. So even after the public address announcer told them with less than a minute remaining that they shouldn’t rush the court, Cavaliers fans did so when the game ended anyway, chanting “U-Va.” as their team stood on the scorer’s table, taking in the scene from a victory this campus hadn’t witnessed in more than a decade.

“I’m going to remember this forever,” senior point guard Jontel Evans said, his voice hoarse from yelling.

by Mark Giannotto

CHARLOTTESVILLE — When Virginia took the floor in front of a sellout crowd that filled the seats at John Paul Jones Arena long before tipoff, it had been 11 years to the day since the Cavaliers last pulled off an upset of a top-five team.

Junior Joe Harris ensured they would have to wait no longer.

To the delight of the 14,593 fans that stormed the court in celebration, Virginia pulled off its biggest win of the season, defeating No. 3 Duke, 73-68, in a game it never trailed.

It will go down as the Cavaliers’ first victory over one of the nation’s elite since besting then-No. 3 Duke back on Feb. 28, 2002. But perhaps more important, this was the sort of signature victory Virginia’s NCAA tournament profile had been lacking.

The Cavaliers’ latest triumph came about in typical fashion for a Tony Bennett-coached team. Virginia controlled the pace, played menacing defense and watched its leading scorer out-shine his more heralded Duke counterparts.

Junior Joe Harris set a new career with 36 points on 12 of 20 shooting, scoring timely baskets with a variety of jump shots and drives into the lane whenever Duke threatened to grab hold of the momentum. The only other remaining player from Bennett’s initial recruiting class at Virginia, forward Akil Mitchell, aided Harris’s cause with 18 points and 12 rebounds, out-performing Duke’s ACC player of the year candidate, Mason Plumlee, for large stretches of the game.

Both were instrumental on a night when the Cavaliers out-rebounded the bigger Blue Devils and held them to a season-low in points.

Senior Seth Curry led Duke with 28 points, and helped the Blue Devils close the gap to single digits with a quick 7-0 surge with under six minutes remaining. But Virginia refused to allow another opportunity to impress the NCAA tournament selection committee slip away again.

Out of a timeout, sophomore Paul Jesperson scored an easy lay-in off a designed play and Harris sandwiched five points, including his second three-pointer of the game, around a thunderous putback slam from freshman Justin Anderson.

The Blue Devils trimmed the deficit to five on a three-pointer by former All Met Quinn Cook (22 points) with less than a minute remaining, but Virginia made just enough free throws to hold off the unlikely comeback bid.

The anticipation for Thursday night’s game was palpable even as the two teams warmed up, with Virginia’s student section completely full more than 30 minutes before tipoff. Backed by several thunderous roars from the first sellout crowd of the season, the Cavaliers’s first win over the Blue Devils since Feb. 1, 2007 began about as well as Bennett could have imagined.

Virginia scored the game’s first seven points and jumped out to an 12-point lead as Duke hit just two of its first 11 shots and struggled to keep the Cavaliers out of the paint. But even with seniors Mason Plumlee and Curry held mostly in check before halftime, the Blue Devils managed to chip away at their early deficit.

Kick-started by Cook, Duke went on a 15-4 run as everyone but Harris went cold for the Cavaliers for more than 10 minutes. Harris scored nine-consecutive Virginia points and finished with 15 before halftime to hold the Blue Devils at bay.

Duke opened the second half with a three-pointer by Curry, but it wasn’t long before Virginia grabbed control of the momentum. The Cavaliers went on a quick 12-2 spurt, aided by eight-straight points off free throws. Two were the result of a technical foul called on Blue Devils guard Rasheed Sulaimon, and Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski spent an entire media timeout chewing out official Roger Ayers on the sideline.

But by that point, the Cavaliers lead had grown to 12 again, and the raucous crowd of orange-and-blue clad faithful couldn’t have been happier. So even after the public address announcer them they shouldn’t rush the court with less than a minute remaining, Cavaliers fans did so anyways, chanting “U-Va” as their team basked in the glow of a victory this campus hasn’t witnessed in more than a decade.

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