The cathartic triumph, Virginia's first at this storied venue since Jan. 14, 1995, kept the Cavaliers (20-1, 9-0) as the lone unbeaten team in the ACC. They hold a three-game lead for first place in the conference with nine games left in the regular season and put themselves in position to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament following their first win here in their past 18 trips.
Sophomore guard Ty Jerome played a critical role in the Cavaliers' 12th consecutive win, stealing an outlet pass in the final minute and sinking a three-pointer with
39 seconds left for a 63-58 lead. During a stoppage moments later, Isaiah Wilkins screamed in exultation, as if releasing more than two decades of frustration.
But the senior forward and his teammates couldn't celebrate fully until sophomore guard Kyle Guy made both ends of a one-and-one for a 65-61 lead with six seconds to play, and the final buzzer sounded as Duke's Marvin Bagley III scored on a layup.
"We were born for this, built for this, and this is what we worked for," Guy said after the Cavaliers blunted a three-game losing streak in the series, sending the majority of the announced crowd of 9,314 streaming to the exits in shock and disappointment.
Guy led Virginia with a team-high 17 points, and senior guard Devon Hall added 14 points in the Cavaliers' first road win against a top-five team since 1993 and their third victory over a ranked opponent this season. The Cavaliers also have beaten No. 18 Clemson and No. 10 North Carolina, the reigning national champion, but those were at John Paul Jones Arena.
With the NCAA tournament selection committee having announced before the season that it would place greater emphasis on road and neutral-court victories, Virginia checked off that box emphatically by winning in a building where the Blue Devils (18-3, 6-3) had won 135 out of their past 143 entering Saturday.
"It's a good sign for sure, but as everybody will tell you, it's one conference game in the middle part of the year," Virginia Coach Tony Bennett said. "So you don't want to make too much of it, but you do have to — it was a special environment as it always is here, and you do have to have some poise and toughness in these settings. They just find ways."
Another sterling defensive effort limited the national leader in scoring offense to 29 below its average. The Blue Devils also committed 16 turnovers that led to 14 Virginia points and went 4 for 15 (27 percent) from three-point range, including missing all seven attempts in the first half.
Virginia led 60-55 with 3:15 left in the second half on Guy's three-pointer from the right corner immediately in front of the Cavaliers' bench. The Blue Devils answered with Wendell Carter Jr.'s free throw and Bagley's two-handed dunk, and Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski immediately called a timeout with 1:32 to play.
But soon after, Jerome stole Trevon Duval's full-court pass intended for Bagley, who was sprinting toward the rim. Following the game, Jerome recalled missing a similar assignment earlier in the second half that led to an uncontested basket, so the sophomore guard paid particular mind not to repeat the mistake.
"It's a huge stage," Jerome said. "I embraced it. I've watched [games] in this place on TV since I can remember, so I definitely enjoyed it."
After withstanding Duke's charge throughout the second half, Virginia managed to take the lead for good at 55-53 with 4:59 remaining on De'Andre Hunter's driving layup. But the Cavaliers' top reserve landed awkwardly and remained on the court clutching his right knee and ankle while in visible discomfort.
He limped to the Virginia bench with assistance and went to the locker room for good to be examined. Hunter had been among three Virginia players leading the team at the time with 12 points, and Bennett indicated during his postgame news conference that he hoped it was only a turned ankle.
A 13-point Virginia lead vanished within roughly five minutes early in the second half. The Blue Devils began chipping away at the margin with seven consecutive points, prompting Bennett to call his first timeout with 16:59 to play.
Another surge, with Bagley and Carter combining to score all the points, gave Duke its first lead since the first few minutes at 41-39. The Cavaliers regained the lead momentarily until Grayson Allen's three-point play and Bagley's layup moved the Blue Devils in front 46-42 with 10:37 to go.
Underscoring the heated atmosphere was a confrontation between Virginia's Mamadi Diakite and Carter in the second half. The two got tangled, with Carter twisting to the basket and raising his elbow in the process.
Diakite slapped the ball from Carter after the whistle, and the two briefly exchanged words before officials separated them with 7:34 to play.
After Virginia's rocky start in the first half, Guy's jumper settled his teammates, and Virginia rallied for a 23-14 advantage, leading to a timeout from Krzyzewski. But the Cavaliers continued to expand the margin, taking a 32-22 lead into intermission.
The Blue Devils adjusted, but not even Bagley's game-high 30 points and Duke's 44-31 advantage in rebounding were enough to overcome Virginia's moxie in the closing stages.
"That was an amazingly hard-fought game," Krzyzewski said. "Congratulations to Virginia. They made a couple really big plays down the stretch, and we didn't make them. Our guys had not been a in a game like that, and it looked that way in the first half. They made us not play well. The level of intensity and the high level of offense and defense that they play I thought knocked us back."