Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 1, 2013

Virginia surprises third-ranked Blue Devils

By HANK KURZ Jr.
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Joe Harris scored a career-high 36 points and Virginia celebrated the 11-year anniversary of its last victory over a top 5 team by doing it again, beating No. 3 Duke 73-68 on Thursday night.

Akil Mitchell added 19 points and 12 rebounds as he and Harris outplayed Duke’s top twosome of Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee, giving Virginia (20-8, 10-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) its 16th consecutive victory at home. It came 11 years to the day since an 87-84 victory, also against No. 3 Duke.

Curry led Duke with 28 points, all but five coming after halftime, and Quinn Cook had 22, but the Blue Devils (24-4, 11-4) failed to slow down either Harris or Mitchell, whose dominating play kept a sellout crowd giddy all night. Plumlee finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and three turnovers and several times looked up to see Mitchell dunking over him.

In the second half, Harris and Mitchell scored Virginia’s first 16 points as the Cavaliers built a 64-50 lead with 3:23 left before closing the victory at the free throw line.

Virginia led 28-23 at halftime. Curry hit a 3-pointer to start the second half but Mitchell responded with a 15-footer, Harris missed a 3-pointer over Plumlee, but went around him for the rebound and laid it in. As the Blue Devils were missing six consecutive shots, Mitchell hit two free throws, and when Rasheed Sulaimon fouled Harris in the act of shooting, he drew a technical foul for arguing.

Harris made all four shots, finishing off a 10-0 burst that made it 38-26, and when Virginia added a 7-2 burst a short time later, the lead was 49-35 with 8:15 to play and John Paul Jones Arena was roaring.

The Blue Devils, who may have been looking ahead to a matchup with No. 5 Miami on Saturday, never got closer than nine points until the final minute, when Virginia made 3 of 4 free throws to hold on.

The victory was huge for the Cavaliers, who were in need of a marquee victory to enhance their NCAA tournament credentials, and got it with a fast start and a stifling defensive effort that limited Duke to 39.6 percent shooting (21 of 53). And the Cavaliers did it despite making only three 3-pointers, more than four below its average, by pounding the ball inside. Virginia scored 34 points inside, Duke just 22.

With its first sellout since North Carolina visited last season, the Cavaliers quickly brought the crowd into the game by scoring the first nine points on their way to a 15-4 lead after 6 1/2 minutes.

The lead got to 18-6 on a three-point play by Harris before Duke settled down offensively.

Curry hit two free throws for his first points midway through the half, sparking a 15-4 burst for the Blue Devils that got them within 22-21 with 4:26 to play. Curry finished it with a 3-pointer, hit only field goal of the half. Duke’s only points the rest of the half came on Plumlee’s lone field goal of the half.

Jontel Evans steal and layup gave Virginia a 24-21 lead, and was Virginia’s first field goal scored by anyone but Harris in more than 11 minutes.

Baskets by Harris and Mitchell made it 28-23 at the half.