Now that was a championship game. The atmosphere was electric, fans were into it, and writing utensils were thrown in rage as the nation’s No. 6 and No. 7 clashed for the right to be crowned the best of this year’s ACC Tournament.
Duke came in boasting the better offense and more star power, but Virginia set the tone early defensively, jumping out to an early 13-4 lead. The Cavaliers did an excellent job disrupting Jabari Parker, namely Akil Mitchell, who helped hold the star to 2-10 shooting in the first half.
However, Parker would come alive in the second half, igniting for 7 straight points in just under 2 minutes to give the Blue Devils the lead with 8:36 to go.
They wouldn’t see it again.
Virginia began dialing in on Parker, sending doubles and trapping hard, daring someone else for Duke to make a play and crack their perimeter defense but no one was up to the task. Duke often settled for long jumpers and just one look at the free throw differential, 25-38 for Virginia and 7-11 for Duke, made it clear who the more aggressive team was. Virginia’s Anthony Gill finished with 17 free throw attempts alone, as he looked to finish strong every single time inside. Duke could keep neither Mitchell or Gill off the boards, and the duo combined for 22 of Virginia’s 39 rebounds.
Virginia senior Joe Harris, who came into today’s game with a career average of 17 PPG against Duke, got off to an inauspicious start with 1-4 shooting in the first half, but righted the ship in the second, going for 13 in the second half and finishing with 15 total. Harris would nail a dagger three with 2 minutes left to give the Cavaliers a 7 point lead and that was it.
Parker finished with 23 points and 8 rebounds. Rodney Hood, Quinn Cook, and Rasheed Sulaimon combined to finish for just 20 points on 7-24 shooting.