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Five observations from Duke men's basketball's first half against Virginia

<p>Zion Williamson found his rhythm in the paint midway through the half after a slow start.</p>

Zion Williamson found his rhythm in the paint midway through the half after a slow start.

In No. 1 Duke's marquee match-up against No. 4 Virginia, the Blue Devils came ready, heading into the locker room leading 37-32. Even without freshman point guard Tre Jones to lead the offense, the Blue Devils were able to effectively score through Virginia's vaunted defense. Here are five observations from the first half of play:

Player of the half: Zion Williamson

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? You get Williamson breaking down Virginia's high-powered defense. Although starting off a bit slow, Williamson instantly made himself known against the Cavaliers. The young Blue Devil went to the locker room with 14 points, including a monster and-one dunk on Jay Huff that left Cameron rocking. Williamson was also consistent from the line, giving Duke four points from the charity stripe off of high-contact plays.

Zion against the pack line

In many ways, Virginia represents one of the toughest match-ups in the ACC for Williamson. The Cavaliers' vaunted pack line defense is famed for cutting off easy lanes to the basket, and Virginia did not disappoint in Cameron. Williamson frequently found himself sandwiched between Jack Salt and DeAndre hunter, frequently cutting off the freshman phenom. Still, Williamson was still able to break through.

Tre Jones is missed

Although the Blue Devils were able to find lanes to score against Virginia, Duke's offense was more reliant on individual plays than locked-in team play. Furthermore, the Blue Devils' famed ball pressure at the point was pointedly absent. The Blue Devils ended the half with two assists and forced only four Virginia turnovers, keeping the half tight.

Huff gives Virginia the spark it needs

Outside of Virginia's usual suspects of Hunter, Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome, true freshman and Durham native Jay Huff has turned into one of the Cavaliers' most important threats on both sides of the ball. Huff ended the half with four points and two blocks, including a monster hook over R.J. Barrett and a block on Williamson. With Jack Salt serving more to set screens than to create much pressure on offense, the 7-foot-1 Huff gives much needed versatility to Virginia's front court.

Cold from three

As has been the case all season, Duke hasn't been able to find much reliable offense from beyond the arc. And although Cam Reddish kicked off Duke's scoring with a wide-open three, the Blue Devils didn't have much more going from range. Duke ended the half shooting 2-for-10 from three, and instead relying on bulldozing moves to the rim to score.

Duke owns the glass

One of the key advantages the Blue Devils had going into the evening was some of the most dangerous players down low in the nation. And even when faced with hard-hitting post players like Salt and Huff, Duke battled its way on the glass to outrebound the visiting team 20 to 12 led by six from Reddish.


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