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Five observations from No. 2 Duke men's basketball's first half at No. 3 Virginia

<p>R.J. Barrett was lights-out from deep in the first half.</p>

R.J. Barrett was lights-out from deep in the first half.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.—Torrid shooting, something that was far from a part of the first battle between No. 2 Duke and No. 3 Virginia Jan. 19, has been the highlight of an exciting first 20 minutes at John Paul Jones Arena. Thanks to its freshmen, though, the Blue Devils lead at the break 39-35.

Player of the half: R.J. Barrett

Who knows if the freshman has anything against Virginia, but it seems like that could be the case. Barrett dropped 30 points on the Cavaliers when they visited Cameron Indoor last month and the Canadian already has 15 at the break. He knocked down his first five triples, finishing the opening 20 minutes shooting 5-of-9 from the field, and Barrett added a couple of rebounds to help lead the way.

It's a party downtown

Duke entered the game shooting a meager 30.8 percent from beyond the arc, good for 308th in the nation. So it was only fitting that the Blue Devils would begin the night draining their first seven 3-pointers—two more than the two teams combined for in their first matchup three weeks ago—en route to a 8-of-11 performance from long distance in the first half. Barrett knocked down the first two, pushing the visitors to a quick 8-0 advantage, and in less than seven minutes, Duke led 19-9.

Mama, there goes that man

It may or may not have been in the gameplan, but the Blue Devils clearly tried to slow Virginia's trio of leading scorers in DeAndre Hunter, Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome. What that meant was opportunities for forward Mamadi Diakite to get going on the offense end. Diakite scored seven of the hosts' first 13 points, drilling a triple from the top of the key and starting the night 3-of-3 from the field. The redshirt junior left the game, however, after banging heads with teammate Hunter late in the opening stanza.

Shot in the arm

Just before the under-four media timeout, Jerome appeared to give the Cavaliers a bit of an offensive spark. With the shot clock ticking under five seconds, the junior drilled a 25-foot-plus 3-pointer to pull the hosts within single digits for the first time in nearly six minutes. Guy then responded to a Cam Reddish triple with one of his own about a minute later before a Kihei Clark trey forced Coach K to call timeout at the 1:57 mark. 

Celebrity sightings

Grant Hill was in the building to support his alma mater, yet it was the man in the red hoodie in front of the band that drew most of the attention from the JPJ crowd. LeBron James made the trip to Charlottesville along with Lakers teammate Rajon Rondo for the primetime ACC battle. James' Lakers play the Philadelphia 76ers tomorrow afternoon just a couple hundred miles north in the City of Brotherly Love.