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X-Factor: Griffin needs to come ready to play if Duke men's basketball is to win at Virginia

After a poor showing against Virginia Feb. 7, freshman forward AJ Griffin has hit 11 of his 23 3-point attempts and topped double-digits in each of the four games since.
After a poor showing against Virginia Feb. 7, freshman forward AJ Griffin has hit 11 of his 23 3-point attempts and topped double-digits in each of the four games since.

The seventh-ranked Blue Devils roll into Charlottesville, Va., for yet another rematch—and revenge game—after getting sunk by a last-second Virginia 3-pointer in the first bout between the teams. Before the Wednesday night game, the Blue Zone has a player to watch for on both sides:

Duke: AJ Griffin

In the midst of a stellar freshman season, Griffin’s star power is no surprise to anyone anymore. The freshman is boasting a 3-point percentage of 48.5%, and, when in the zone, is a consistent contributor to Duke’s offense. His 27-point performance against North Carolina was a perfect example of his dependability and poise under pressure.

The version of Griffin that the Blue Devil faithful have come to expect is not the one which showed up against Virginia in the first matchup at home Feb. 7. He was 1-for-7 from the field for a total of two points. Off days are natural, but the timing was unfortunate for Duke as it dropped the matchup on a Reece Beekman three with just a second left.

Griffin wasn’t the only Blue Devil who struggled to put points on the board. Duke as a team shot 42.3% from the field and put up their third-lowest point total of the season. Going into Charlottesville, Va., Wednesday, Duke has to come out roaring against the pack-line defense, and that starts with Griffin. A strong shooting day from the freshman would set the tone that the ACC's top team and No. 7 team in the nation is not messing around.

Virginia: Reece Beekman

It was a moment Duke fans will not forget for a long time. Beekman’s game-winning shot silenced the Cameron Crazies, a feat not easily accomplished. It was only the Cavaliers’ second made 3-pointer of the night, but it was all they needed. Beekman executed on one of the biggest stages to down the Blue Devils.

The sophomore might not be the most dominant player on Virginia’s roster, but his presence is not to be understated. He averages five assists per game, but has gone over double digits twice in the Cavaliers’ wins against Louisville and Miami. He moves fast and has the ability to put up big games, like his 19-point performance in the close win over Pittsburgh.

While the hostile Cameron environment propels opposing teams to step up their game, Virginia gets to host this matchup on its home court. The crowd will be buzzing, and fans love nothing more than their hometown hero. David slayed the Goliath once before—Beekman’s energy and intensity will be key for the 'Hoos to down the Blue Devils again.

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