Duke saved its best 3-point shooting night of the season for one of is biggest games on Saturday night.
The No. 2 Blue Devils made 13 3-pointers, hitting at a 61.9 percent accuracy, and never trailed to beat No. 3 Virginia 81-71 in ACC basketball at John Paul Jones Arena.
Entering the game having made just 30.8 percent of their 3-pointers this season, the Blue Devils made seven of their first eight to build a double-digit lead and hold off every Virginia charge.
RJ Barrett hit six 3-pointers and led Duke (21-2, 9-1 in ACC) with 26 points. Fellow freshman Cam Reddish made five of eight 3-pointers to score 17 points.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
Freshman star Zion Williamson scored 18 points with five assists. Duke’s fourth freshman starter, point guard Tre Jones, scored 13 points and handed out seven assists.
Duke shot 57.8 percent overall.
Virginia (20-2, 8-2), whose only losses have come against Duke, was led by Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome with 16 points each. De’Andre Hunter added 11 points for the Cavaliers, who shot 46.7 percent.
The Blue Devils led by as many as 14 points in the first half before taking a 39-35 lead to halftime.
Duke made five of its first eight shots after halftime, including three Reddish 3-pointers over the first five minutes, to push its lead back into double-digits.
Virginia made several pushes only to be rebuffed by the Blue Devils.
Durham’s Jay Huff hit a 3-pointer for Virginia before zipping a nice pass under the basket for a Braxton Key layin that cut Duke’s lead to 54-49.
Tre Jones answered with a 3-pointer from the corner. He was fouled on a drive with 11:21 and hit two free throws for a 59-49 Duke lead.
After a Jack Salt rebound dunk got the Cavaliers crowd going, Barrett silenced them with a 3-pointer that put Duke in front 66-56 with 7:20 to play.
Hunter’s 3-pointer left Virginia down 66-61. But Williamson turned in big plays on both ends for Duke.
The 6-7 freshman’s pass inside led to a Marques Bolden basket with 5:06 to play. Hunter appeared open for a 3-pointer from the corner. But Williamson came from under the basket to soar through the air and swat the ball out of bounds. That left the Cavaliers with only five seconds on the shot clock and they failed to hit the rim after in-bounding the ball and turned the ball over.
Williamson rebounded Barrett’s missed shot and scored with 4:02 for a 70-61 Duke lead.
After Salt missed two free throws, Jones’ jump shot put Duke up 72-61 with 3:13 to play.
Duke’s smoking hot shooting start to the game, including uncharacteristically good 3-point shooting, helped the Blue Devils lead by 14 points on two occasions and 35-22 with 4:18 to play in the half.
The Blue Devils’ first two made field goals were Barrett 3-pointers as Duke jumped to an 8-0 lead.
When Barrett drilled a 3-pointer at the 11:20 mark, Duke led 22-11 thanks to eight of 12 shooting, including hitting six of seven 3-pointers.
Another Barrett 3-pointer at 8:09 pushed Duke’s lead to 29-15. When Bolden sank two free throws at 5:37, Duke led 31-17.
But that’s when Virginia finally found its groove on offense. The Cavaliers scored on seven of their final eight possessions and missed only one of its final eight shots of the half.
Included in that run were eight Guy points as he he two 3-pointers along the way.
Duke used a Reddish 3-pointer and a traditional 3-point play from Williamson to help stave off the Virginia charge.
But Duke turned the ball over on its final two possessions of the half and took a 39-35 lead at halftime.
After making just four of their first 10 field goal attempts, the Cavaliers finished the first half 15 of 32 (46.9 percent).
Duke shot 59.1 percent in the first half, including 8 of 11 3-pointers (72.7 percent).