After each Duke men's basketball game this season, check back here for the Player of the Game and more. The second-seed Blue Devils defeated No. 4-seed Virginia 59-49 to win their first ACC championship since 2019, and the Blue Zone breaks down the game:
One player: Kyle Filipowski
Freshman center Kyle Filiposwki has been a matchup nightmare all season long, and his versatility was on display throughout the contest. After being held scoreless in Duke’s 69-62 loss to Virginia Feb. 11, he was a leading force for the Blue Devils on Saturday night with 20 points and 10 rebounds. The Westtown, N.Y., native produced from all areas of the court, posting up on smaller defenders and stretching the court with his jumpshot.
Filipowski filled the statsheet and was a crucial part in multiple facets of the game. Duke’s defensive effort was outstanding, and the 7-foot freshman contributed on that end of the floor with nine defensive rebounds and three steals. In addition, Filiposwki made some incredible passes off of Virginia double teams, including a key second-half connection to freshman guard Tyrese Proctor for a corner triple. Filipowski’s importance to the team is evident, and this performance goes to show how essential he will be in the NCAA tournament.
One word: Lockdown
Although Virginia is known for its stingy pack-line defense, the Blue Devils gave the Cavaliers a taste of their own medicine this game. Virginia’s offense is difficult to defend because it utilizes screens and elite off-ball movement to wear out opposing teams. However, Duke countered this with its length, running over screens and limiting the Cavaliers’ open space.
The Blue Devils held Virginia to 49 points, its second-lowest scoring total all season. While the Cavaliers were able to make some offensive runs in the second half, they were never able to find a true rhythm, a strong contrast from their 76-56 victory against Clemson the previous night. Two key freshmen were forward Dariq Whitehead and center Dereck Lively II, as Whitehead recorded a career-high four steals and Lively was an elite rim protector once again, with two blocks and two steals.
Virginia did its part on the defensive end too, and Duke’s 59-point total is tied for its third-lowest amount this season. Even when the offense was not producing, the Cavalier defense is what kept the second seed in the game. In the end however, Filipowski and junior captain Jeremy Roach proved to be too much, securing the ACC championship for the Blue Devils.
One stat: Turnover margin
At first glance, a turnover margin of 12-11 in favor of the Blue Devils does not appear to be a deciding factor in the contest. However, during the aforementioned Cavalier victory in the teams’ first meeting, Duke committed 22 turnovers to Virginia's nine. The Cavaliers commit the fewest turnovers in the ACC, but the Blue Devil defense made them uncharacteristically sloppy. Duke forced 12 Virginia turnovers, significantly higher than the Cavaliers’ current season average of 8.6. Takeaways were key in helping create offense, as the Blue Devils scored 13 points off of them.
Although Duke’s offensive performance was inconsistent with some costly turnovers, it was not nearly as significant as the prior game. By cutting their giveaways in half, the Blue Devils did just enough on the offensive end to push past Virginia. The Cavaliers specialize in forcing opposing turnovers, and, for the most part, Duke did a good job protecting the ball and limiting empty possessions.
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Ranjan Jindal is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.