After each Duke men's basketball game this season, check back here for the Player of the Game and more. Today, the Blue Zone breaks down Theo John's performance and the rest of the Blue Devils' last-second loss to Virginia:
One player: Theo John
Sometimes, all it takes is one player to change the course of a game. Against Virginia, it was Theo John. In the final six-plus minutes, John had two blocks and three rebounds, one of which could have effectively ended the game if not for a jump-ball call. With everything on the line, it was John who gave the Blue Devils an opportunity to win.
John’s late-game contributions are relatively simple to explain; Duke needed someone to be in the right position, and he was. That position was under the rim, ending the Cavaliers’ possessions and prolonging Duke's own. John accomplished just that with blocks and rebounds, but his performance alone was not enough for the Blue Devils to close it out.
One word: Almost
It was a game of almost, of small things that if they had gone the Blue Devils way, the outcome might have been different. If they had taken care of the ball just a little bit better. If they had been just a little bit more aggressive while rebounding. If they had made just one more shot, specifically Paolo Banchero’s final attempt. Duke had countless opportunities to win despite playing one of its worst games of the season, but it couldn’t close out the game. When the final buzzer sounded, Virginia was up by one. The Cavaliers’ final shot to take the lead was only their second made three of the night, but they made it when it mattered, and Duke did not.
The Blue Devils had quite a few problematic areas. Any one of those areas on its own might have been enough to overcome, but the combination proved to be too much. They committed 15 turnovers, shot 42.3% from the field and trailed for 31 minutes. They were playing catch-up all night and couldn’t claw their way back with the subpar offensive performance.
One stat: 42.3% field goal shooting
Duke shot just 42.3% from the field against Virginia, and freshmen AJ Griffin and Trevor Keels combined to shoot just 22.2% from the field. The duo combined to go 4-for-18 from the field and 1-for-5 from three. That stat comes just one game after Griffin’s career performance against North Carolina, in which he put up 27 points on almost 65% shooting. Consistency had been one of Griffin’s biggest strengths over the past few games, yet he lacked that same consistency against Virginia.
Even before his injury at Florida State, Keels’ shooting had been inconsistent. His 3-for-4 3-point shooting performance at North Carolina marked the most treys he had made in a game since Duke's win against Gardner-Webb back in November. While he did have a key steal in the second half against Virginia, his shooting struggles were representative of Duke's larger struggle as a team.
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