Aft each men's basketball game the Blue Zone brings you a one-word recap of the contest, which is accompanied by one highlighted stat and one highlighted player. Read our break down of Duke's victory over No. 7 Virginia:
One word: Electrifying
In the previous five Duke-Virginia matchups at Cameron Indoor Stadium, no team had won by more than four points—and with the unranked Blue Devils thirsting for a signature win, fans and players alike were kept on the edge of their seats. Duke sprung out to an immediate 6-0 lead, but that would be the largest margin either team could produce all night. For the final 19 minutes of the game, Duke was stuck playing catch-up basketball, with the two teams trading baskets and returning blows. The energy seen by the players, notably the Cavaliers’ Jay Huff after delivering posterizing dunks and Duke’s Matthew Hurt as he continued his hot shooting streak, kept the momentum alive and surely would have had the student section of Cameron rocking.
The players also knew what was at stake—a win streak and a resume victory for tournament consideration. In the late moments of the game, senior guard Jordan Goldwire, who notched four steals, showcased his leadership and led a classic Duke basketball floor slap as the Blue Devils got back on defense. The energy permeating from Duke’s grit and will to finish strong held No. 7 Virginia to 0-5 shooting and zero points in the final two-and-a-half minutes as the game wound to a nail-biting conclusion and a first-rate win.
One stat: Wendell Moore Jr.’s seven assists
Wendell Moore Jr., who was widely projected to lead Duke’s team offensively, has done an excellent job of adapting as his inconsistent shooting continues to plague his offensive potential. Moore has led the Blue Devils in assists over the last six games with 25, and made his ball control and playmaking a central part of Duke’s offense in the first half of Saturday’s game. In the game’s first 20 minutes, he shot the ball twice, making one, but had six assists leading to 16 Duke points, including a pass through traffic that found Jaemyn Brakefield for a fast break slam. Moore’s seven total assists to only one turnover shows that he can find his way into the game even when his shooting touch is off.
One player: Jaemyn Brakefield
For a player entering the game averaging 12.8 minutes per game in conference play, freshman forward Brakefield demonstrated an unparalleled ability to step up for his team in the biggest game of the season thus far. As Brakefield saw increased minutes while Jalen Johnson nursed a foot injury earlier this year, he seemed entirely prepared to take on a major role in the Blue Devils’ stifling of Virginia with Johnson now absent from the team. In response to Virginia building its largest lead of the night with under eight minutes remaining in the first half, the motivated Brakefield went on a personal 9-0 run to set Duke up to lead going into halftime. The Jackson, Miss. native also delivered in the waning minutes of the game with a block leading to the eventual game-winning reverse layup. Brakefield’s night—and his unrivaled contribution to the overall energy of the team—can be summed up by his animated response to his game-winning shot. Watch for Brakefield to follow up his role as the impact player off the bench in the closing weeks of the season.