5 observations from No. 10 Duke men's basketball's first half against Virginia

Kyle Filipowski celebrates with Tyrese Proctor during the first half of Duke's matchup with Virginia.
Kyle Filipowski celebrates with Tyrese Proctor during the first half of Duke's matchup with Virginia.

Under the lights in Cameron Indoor Stadium for the second-to-last time this season, No. 10 Duke started out fast against Virginia and kept on the gas. With 20 minutes to play, the Blue Devils are all over the Cavaliers, leading 40-18:

Pace of play

Virginia entered Saturday’s matchup with the slowest tempo of any Division-I team and has made a living by wearing out opposing offenses. Duke does not play particularly fast, but it would benefit the Blue Devils to pick up the pace and run their offense how they like instead of taking last-second shots. Duke pushed the pace early with several dump-ins to the post and scored on its first five possessions to help the home squad bolt to an early 14-4 lead. Duke’s 40 points at the break put a ton of pressure on the Cavaliers, as they only average 63.7 per night on the season — 353rd nationally — and just 51.5 per game over their last four.

Digging into the paint

The Blue Devils capitalized on several early opportunities down low with sophomore Kyle Filipowski and Mark Mitchell each connecting in the painted area (28-8 overall margin in the paint), with the former also stretching the floor by hitting his first 3-point attempt of the afternoon. The pack-line defense had little answer for Duke’s aggressive drives toward the basket, as that appeared to be a key strategy for head coach Jon Scheyer’s bunch in the first half.

Power ball

Freshman forward TJ Power was the first one off the bench for the Blue Devils Saturday, as he continues to build a role for himself in the absence of freshman guard Caleb Foster. He instantly made an impact as he dove for a loose ball on defense leading to a score on the other end. The Shrewsbury, Mass., native has cemented himself as a consistent 3-point shooter — but not much else catches the eye on his stat sheet. Saturday was a positive sign for Duke as they may have a reliable bench piece as the Blue Devils deal with Foster’s injury.

This halftime lead…

Duke’s largest halftime lead of the season up to this point was 25 — which the Blue Devils reached on the road against Pittsburgh. The Blue Devils’ largest at home was 21 against Dartmouth in their season opener. The score differential at the break, though not record-breaking, was just one of the many eye-popping stats from this game, which was expected to be, well, closer than this. The fewest points Duke had allowed in a first half this season was 20, against Michigan State back in November, and the fewest of the Scheyer era until Saturday was 17… against Virginia in the 2023 ACC Championship game.

Player of the half: Kyle Filipowski

The 7-foot center was key to Duke’s early run, as he hit seven of his first eight shot attempts and collected four rebounds. He was key for the Blue Devils' spacing and did an admirable job on the defensive end to stave off potential bucket-getters inside with his height advantage. He matched his scoring output from Wednesday’s game against Louisville within the first seven minutes of Saturday’s game and looked the part of a top-10 team’s star player. His 15 points and five rebounds both lead the team at the break.

Micah Hurewitz

Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity senior and was previously a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


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