CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM—Two days before the No. 23 Blue Devils squared off on Monday night against unranked Virginia (12-5, 3-1), Duke freshman Matt Jones received the news that he would get his first start of the season. But neither he nor his teammates knew that Coach Krzyzewski would be implementing an unorthodox substitution strategy against the Cavaliers.
In the game’s opening minutes, Duke took a 5-0 lead against Virginia, following a Jabari Parker 3-pointer, a steal and offensive rebound from Amile Jefferson and a couple of made free throws from Matt Jones. The lineup looked strong and intent upon bouncing back from last week’s loss at Clemson. But at the 16:46 mark, Coach K sent an entirely new team to the scorer’s table to sub in for the team on the floor. The strategy is known as “platooning,” and it worked for Duke throughout the entire game.
Rasheed Sulaimon, who scored a season-high 21 points, was in the starting lineup but had no idea what was happening when the substitution horn blew. “I didn’t know he was going to sub five in and five out,” said Sulaimon. “But he just told us to be ready. It was strange but it worked out really well.”
Coach K did this four times in the first half and the lineup overhauls worked out extremely well on Virginia guard Joe Harris, who was held to only 5 points on 1-4 shooting in the first half. It may have been a point of emphasis, defensively, for the Blue Devils, who fought off a repeat of Harris’ career-high, 36 point performance in Virginia’s 73-68 shocker over Duke last year in Charlottesville.
After the game, Coach K called Harris “a coach’s dream,” and pointed out that in the final seconds, after a Sulaimon three-pointer bounced high off of the rim and then sank back in to give Duke a two-point lead, he knew Virginia would probably go to Harris for the winning bucket or for the tie.
“It’s not so much that we knew exactly what we were going to do,” said Coach K. “But if I had Harris, I’d try and get him the ball. The kid is a great player.”
That greatness, however, couldn’t get off a great, late shot against an eager Duke front court, led by Amile Jefferson’s 15 boards and a key pass deflection in the final seconds of the game.
“We’ve got to protect our home,” said Jefferson. “This is our home. When you walk out that door, you see there’s white tape down. And that’s us saying that when we cross that line right there, were going to be Duke.”
The Blue Devils move to 13-4 on the season and 2-2 in ACC play. Click here
for the complete box score.