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Duke men's basketball's best 2018-19 wins to date

<p>RJ Barrett helped power Duke in its most impressive comeback of the season.</p>

RJ Barrett helped power Duke in its most impressive comeback of the season.

Duke is No. 1 in the nation with an impressive 23-2 record entering the season’s first showdown against North Carolina. Here are the Blue Devils’ top five wins of the season:

5. Duke 80, Florida State 78: Jan. 12, 2019 (Tallahassee, Fla.)

Then-No. 13 Florida State provided an inexperienced Blue Devil team with its first true hostile road environment after then-top-ranked Duke saw a blue-heavy crowd in Winston-Salem earlier that week. The Blue Devils opened up a 29-19 lead midway through the first half, but Duke had its first major scare of the season when Zion Williamson got poked in the eye in the period’s closing minutes. Without Williamson on the floor, Cam Reddish emerged from a season-long slump with 23-points, including a wide-open triple with 0.8 seconds left, to give the Blue Devils a hard-fought victory.

4. Duke 72, Virginia 70: Jan. 19, 2019 (Durham)

Coming off a shocking overtime loss to Syracuse, the No. 1 Blue Devils faced the brutal task of an unbeaten No. 4 Virginia coming to town. Playing without floor general Tre Jones, who suffered an AC joint separation against the Orange, Duke relied on iso-ball from R.J. Barrett and Williamson to generate offense. After taking 13 3-point attempts in the first half, the Blue Devils focused on attacking the interior out of the break. Williamson and Barrett combined for 57 points and Marques Bolden added a pair of clutch free throws down the stretch as Duke sealed the deal.

3. Duke 81, Virginia 71: Feb. 9, 2019 (Charlottesville, Va.)

No. 2 Duke came out firing against No. 3 Virginia in the teams’ rematch three weeks later, opening up an 8-0 advantage and a 29-15 lead in the first 12 minutes. Barrett drained his first five triples and Duke hit 13-of-21 in the contest. Virginia used an 11-3 run to cut the deficit to four entering the break, but Reddish caught fire in the second half, adding 17 points—aided by five triples—as Duke put Virginia away and earned a season sweep. 

2. Duke 118, Kentucky 84: Nov. 6, 2018 (Indianapolis)

The fourth-ranked Blue Devils erupted out of the gates in the Champions Classic. The nation’s top three recruits put on a show as Duke opened up a 34-13 advantage against then-No. 2 Kentucky and never looked back. Barrett, Reddish and Williamson combined for 83 points, and junior captain Jack White broke out off the bench with nine points and 11 rebounds. The Blue Devils led by as much as 37 as Duke’s freshmen compiled one of the most impressive offensive performances in recent memory in just their first regular-season game.

1. Duke 71, Louisville 69: Feb. 12, 2019 (Louisville, Ky.)

What tops a 34-point blowout of a John Calipari-coached squad? How about the largest comeback in the Mike Krzyzewski era? Trailing by 23 with 9:30 remaining in the contest, ESPN’s win probability chart gave Duke a 0.1 percent chance of a comeback. With Louisville getting complacent and taking ill-advised triples, the Blue Devils rode offensive efficiency and pesky defense from reserve Jordan Goldwire to erase the deficit. Reddish complemented Williamson’s 27-point, 12-rebound performance with 22 points, including a triple to knot the score at 69 with 1:29 to go and the go-ahead free throws with 14 ticks on the clock as Duke stunned then-No. 16 Louisville on the road.

This is part of our extensive preview coverage for this year's first meeting between Duke and North Carolina. Check out more of our content here, including rankings of memorable games historically for the Blue Devils, breakdowns of the matchups at every position Wednesday night and our writers' predictions for the game.