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

Vernon Carey Jr. was efficient inside in the opening period Saturday.
Vernon Carey Jr. was efficient inside in the opening period Saturday.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.—The Blue Devils have struggled on the road all season long and that trend does not appear to be changing Saturday in John Paul Jones Arena. No. 7 Duke was sluggish out of the gates, but used a 15-4 run to take the lead midway through the period. Virginia would not go away easy, however, and the teams enter the locker room tied at 25. Here are five observations from the opening period.

Changing up the starting lineup

After losing two of the last three games, head coach Mike Krzyzewski mixed up the starting lineup against Virginia with the hope of adding more offense out of the gate. Matthew Hurt replaced Jordan Goldwire—who had started five straight contests—and struggled on both ends of the floor, prompting an early substitution. Hurt finished the half with no points, while Goldwire totaled two points.  

10-for-10

The Blue Devils completed their perfect season Saturday, failing to win the first five minutes of each of their 10 conference road games. Duke fell behind 9-3 in the opening minutes, causing Krzyzewski to flip the switch back to a defense-heavy set. Captains Javin DeLaurier and Jack White replaced the freshman duo of Hurt and Vernon Carey Jr. DeLaurier promptly responded with an and-one on offense and strong defense as the Blue Devils eliminated the deficit and evened the score at 11 with 12:28 left in the half. 

A strong recovery

Duke would not stop after tying the game, increasing its lead to five at 18-13. Following a 2-for-7 start from the field, the Blue Devils became more selective on offense and clamped down on defense as Duke completed a 15-4 run. The Blue Devils played an extremely clean half in Charlottesville, largely avoiding foul trouble and turning the ball over a mere two times. 

Who’s going to be the third option?

One of the biggest problems for Duke this season has been the lack of a consistent third option behind Tre Jones and Carey. This problem persisted in the first half Saturday with just five Blue Devils finding their way onto the score sheet. Hurt, Cassius Stanley, Wendell Moore Jr., and Alex O’Connell were held scoreless in the opening frame. That will likely need to change for Duke to come away victorious.  

Player of the half: Vernon Carey Jr.

Duke struggled without its leader inside during the end of regulation and overtime in Tuesday’s defeat against Wake Forest. Carey again showed his ability to take over in the early going Saturday. The 6-foot-10 freshman finished the first half with eight points on a perfect 3-for-3 from the field. Unfortunately, Carey could not elude foul trouble as he picked up a pair in the first frame. 

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