And one: Filipowski's complete performance, interior presence drive dominant win against Virginia

Sophomore center Kyle Filipowski was dominant against Virginia with 21 points.
Sophomore center Kyle Filipowski was dominant against Virginia with 21 points.

After each Duke basketball game this season, check back here for the Player of the Game and more. The Blue Devils earned a 73-48 statement win against Virginia Saturday, and the Blue Zone is here to analyze the matchup:

One player: Kyle Filipowski

Saturday was a night of stellar sophomore performances headlined by Kyle Filipowski. The Preseason All-American, perhaps holding last season’s controversial loss in Charlottesville, Va., in mind, exploded on all fronts to get the Blue Devils in front early. He posted 15 points alone in a first half that saw the Cavaliers score just 18. The seven-footer went on to earn six more in limited second-half minutes, shooting 64.3% from the floor overall. His scoring was coupled with seven rebounds, three of which were offensive, and three steals. Filipowski’s two-way performance dictated the game’s pace and momentum from its onset.

Duke’s starting center has worked through inconsistency as of late, particularly from an efficiency standpoint. His performance against Virginia, however, reminded the nation of his ceiling. Filipowski was consistently able to leverage his frame to back down the Cavaliers’ relatively young frontcourt and work high-percentage openings. He also established himself as a threat on the perimeter, nailing a deep ball seven minutes in that forced the opposition’s hounding defense to pick him up early. On the defensive end, Filipowski was the centerpiece of a frontcourt that allowed just 18 points in the paint. The version of the projected lottery pick that took the floor Saturday is exactly what will be needed throughout the remainder of March. 

One word: Commanding

Simply put, the Blue Devils were commanding in all aspects of the game from start to finish. After grabbing the lead on a Mark Mitchell three-point play not even a minute in, they led Virginia the rest of the way through without letting up. 

The Cavaliers boast one of the nation’s best defenses — rated ninth in KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency and allowing an average of just 59.2 points per game. Yet Duke carved its way through their efforts on that end of the floor. Efficient scoring on all three levels saw the Blue Devils tally up 40 in just the first half en route to 73 points overall. The sophomore trio of Filipowski, Mitchell and Tyrese Proctor was particularly dominant as they combined for 46 on 66.7% shooting. All three have seemed to hit their stride after battling through respective struggles earlier in the season. 

Virginia, by contrast, were dominated by Duke’s lockdown effort. It shot a weak 23.1% from the field in the first half and were never able to get it going, finishing with a slightly improved 30.9% clip while falling victim to a slew of forced turnovers — the Blue Devils had four blocks and eight steals. Commanding both ends of the game to this extent powered the dominant 25-point win.

One stat: 44 points in the paint

Perhaps the most pronounced element of Duke’s dominant scoring was its ability to attack the rim. Earlier in the season, the team struggled to establish an offensive presence on the interior. Filipowski was inefficient at times, facing periodic struggles in getting his layups to go. Mitchell had earlier problems playing through contact while driving. Forward Sean Stewart spent the better part of the season tackling the growing pains associated with his first year of college play. The trio demonstrated no such struggles against the visitors from Charlottesville as they combined for 28 points in the paint. Their explosiveness allowed them to burst straight through the Cavaliers’ rim protection, giving way to efficient scoring and highlight-reel dunks. 

The interior presence also made for production on the offensive glass. The Blue Devils ended with 12 offensive rebounds that were converted to eight second-chance points. Offensive upside in the frontcourt will be critical in continuing to open up much-needed opportunities as the team hunts for a strong close to the regular season. 


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