Duke came out of the gates flat and relatively uninspired against Virginia and they payed the price.
Joe Harris almost single-handledly took care of Duke.
The Cavaliers used a stellar night from their star Joe Harris who scored 36 points to lead Virginia past Duke 73 to 68 and essentially drop Duke out of the running for the ACC Regular season title and bring into serious question whether or not the can get a No. 1 seed and potentially whether they may miss out on a first round bye in the ACC Tournament..
The Blue Devils got nothing from Mason Plumlee who only mustered 10 points and 7 rebounds as he was completely outplayed as were most of his teammates. Duke was completely manhandled on the glass by the Cavaliers 33 to 2` as Virginia looked quicker to lose balls and just appeared to want the game more.
Many Duke fans will malign the officiating but the Blue Devils looked neither ready or motivated to go into John Paul Jones Arena and come out of there with a win.
So much of the talk prior to the game centered around the news that senior captain Ryan Kelly was practicing again and actually dressed out for the game and participated in pregame warm ups. He wasn’t expected to play and he didn’t but the sight brought up a lot of speculation that he might even make it back for the Miami game on Saturday.
Why that seems a bit overly optimistic, and any news about a Kelly return is music to your ears, you can’t be Duke fan and be feeling very good about how the Blue Devils are playing right now.
For starters, defensively Duke was just awful. Harris scoring 36 points is embarrassment. For a program that prides itself in defense to allow one guy to almost single handedly dissect you, makes for a hard pill to swallow. Harris shot 12 of 20 from the floor and Duke had no answer as he did what he wanted.
Plumlee has to be the biggest disappointment as for the second time in four games he was completely ineffective at at times looked like the fifth best player on the floor for Duke instead of the National Player of the Year candidate he has been billed as for much of the season.
Duke needs Plumlee to be effective going forward with or without Kelly and if he isn’t don’t expect a very deep run from Duke.
Seth Curry was one of the few bright spots as the other senior captain finished with 28 points but it clearly wasn’t enough to overcome the hole Duke dug for itself and due to ineptness on the defensive end couldn’t dig themselves out.
The Blue Devils will have very little time to prepare for their rematch against Miami on Saturday. The Hurricanes decimated Duke back in Miami in January and have likely secured the ACC Regular Season Title as they are sitting pretty at 14-1 in conference play.
Duke will likely come out motivated with something to prove but another lose isn’t that far fetched against a very good Miami team. And with the always tough season finale against North Carolina next week there is still a shot that Duke 11-4 ACC could fall out of one of the top spots in conference and that could cost them a first day bye in the ACC Tournament.
Bottom line is, Duke has to regroup and has to play tougher, if they still want a shot at a No. 1 seed, with or without Ryan Kelly.
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