NO CONTEST: No. 10 Duke men's basketball blows the brakes off Virginia in penultimate home clash of season

Kyle Filipowski windmills the ball during Duke's destruction of Virginia.
Kyle Filipowski windmills the ball during Duke's destruction of Virginia.

Kyle Filipowski saw his chance, and he took it. The sophomore burst in, picked off the inbound pass near midcourt and raced up the floor for a breakaway slam. He added a windmill for good measure, causing general bedlam inside Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The game was over. With 5:10 still left in the first half, the Blue Devils led 35-13.

It was that easy for No. 10 Duke, which erased Virginia 73-48 in Saturday evening’s rematch of last season’s ACC title game. The second half was little more than a formality as each of Filipowski, Tyrese Proctor and Mark Mitchell scored in double digits for the Blue Devils, who stay hot on the trail of first-place North Carolina with two games left in ACC play.

“We did such a good job of flowing into offense and driving downhill, making the right reads,” head coach Jon Scheyer said postgame. “And then good things happen from that. We just kept our foot on the gas, but a lot of respect for them, their program, Tony [Bennett] as a coach, and to beat those guys is a great thing.” 

The Blue Devils (23-6, 14-4 in the ACC) simply dominated the Cavaliers in every sense of the word, especially in the first half. Head coach Tony Bennett’s team shot 6-of-26 from the field in the first 20 minutes as Duke hardly missed, hitting 17-of-29 shots and leaving the Cavaliers (21-9, 12-7) in the dust from the get-go. 

Virginia’s 18 first-half points were the fewest allowed by the Blue Devils this season and the second-fewest of Scheyer’s tenure, second only to March 2023’s 59-49 win in the ACC tournament final. On the other hand, it was an uncharacteristically poor outing for the Cavalier’s staunch defense, which entered Saturday as the nation’s third-ranked scoring defense at 58.7 points allowed per game.

“For us to score 40 points on Virginia, that’s a heck of a thing for us to do in the first half,” Scheyer said. “I just thought our guys came out really ready to play. The defense was terrific.”

Duke came roaring out of the gates, scoring on its first five possessions as Mitchell and Filipowski led the Blue Devils to an 11-4 start before the first media timeout. A pair of 3-pointers by Proctor and Filipowski helped the home side continue to rapidly expand that lead as Virginia struggled to find its footing.

Even as the Blue Devils could do no wrong in the opening minutes, Filipowski (21 points, seven rebounds) stood out among the rest. The star sophomore started 6-of-7 from the field and crossed the double-digit threshold before the Cavaliers as a whole could, driving through the paint to make the score 25-9. He finished the first half with 15 points, five rebounds and one of the signature highlights of his Duke career.

“[Filipowski], when he’s like that,” Scheyer said, “I don’t think there’s anyone like that in the country.”

Despite it all, Virginia showed signs of life to begin the second half as freshman guard Ryan Dunn connected from 3-point range to cut the lead to 20. The momentum was short-lived, though, as the Blue Devils regained control moments later on the rare dunk by Proctor in transition. 

The Cavaliers made little inroads after that and trailed by as many as 29 late in the game. In the final minutes, walk-on senior guard Spencer Hubbard — who hit his first-career 3-pointer Wednesday against Louisville — entered to thunderous cheers from the Cameron Indoor crowd.

For the second-straight game, Scheyer opted to give freshmen Sean Stewart and TJ Power extended runs in the frontcourt as the team continues to adjust in the absence of Caleb Foster. In 28 combined minutes, the two combined for 12 points and a key first-half sequence, with Power pouncing on a loose ball to start a fast-break and Stewart slamming for two on the other end.

“It’s really hard without Caleb playing with us, but he’s got to get his foot right,” Filipowski said. “Whenever he comes back, he’ll be great for us. But the other guys have definitely looked a lot more comfortable, stepped up in their roles, they’ve done a great job overall. And it just shows how good of a team we are as a whole.”

Ironically enough, the last decade-plus of the Duke-Virginia rivalry has been marked mainly by close games. The Blue Devils’ 25-point win Saturday was the series’ largest margin of victory since 2009 (plus-25) and just its third double-digit game since 2012. Duke broke another notable streak by becoming the first team in the series to win two games in a row since the Zion Williamson-led Blue Devils swept the 2018-19 series.

The sophomore duo of Proctor (15 points, five assists) and Mitchell (10 points, five rebounds) had productive outings for Duke. Mitchell started the evening’s fireworks, stealing away Virginia’s lone lead of the night at 2-0 with a driving and-one.

Senior guard Reece Beekman had 18 points to lead the way for Virginia. Sophomore guard Isaac McKneely joined him in double digits with 12.

After the game, Scheyer updated reporters that Foster will not play Monday night at N.C. State.

“There’s no way for Monday,” Scheyer said. “And I think it’s highly unlikely anytime soon. We’re going to keep taking it week to week and continue to evaluate, but he’s not out of that boot, he’s not able to do anything, and it’s going to be some time still.”

The blowout win keeps Duke alive in the race for the regular-season conference crown. Rival North Carolina, which comes to Durham for the March 9 regular-season finale, holds a one-game lead in the standings as the Blue Devils look ahead to Monday’s 7 p.m. tilt in Raleigh.

Jonathan Levitan

Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


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