Jaemyn Brakefield’s key contributions from the bank helped stop any momentum in Virginia and ultimately won the game

Time and again in 2021, the Blue Devils let the final moments of the game slip through their fingers, always on the wrong side of the chance to reverse the momentum of the season

Yet when Duke faced one of the finest ACC players – a team with championship history – he finally put his youth in the rearview mirror to get a dagger in # 7 Virginia and get a win that boosts the résumé

The Blue Devils took every stroke from the away team, striking back for the first time this season Faced with endless must-score or must-stop situations, a number of Duke underclassmen simply played their way to a 66 -65 victory

“We learned by losing and losing close games,” said Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “But at least we learned from it – not just to lose, but why and what we needed to improve”

Tight games have not been good for the Blue Devils this season, and the team’s current status on the edge of the NCAA tournament bubble could look more optimistic if the scale just tipped the other way at some of these competitions

Duke should now be doing something other than looking back in time, but it’s hard not to see how unfriendly crunch time has been for this team The Blue Devils couldn’t find a timely stop against Pittsburgh or Notre Dame Wendell Moore Jr produced costly sales with a chance to tie against North Carolina Jalen Johnson lost on a possible 3-point try against Miami. And who can forget that the rims closed against Louisville and it took Duke a single triple to fall?

Krzyzewski mentioned the “basketball gods” after that loss to the Cardinals, but the closing moments of the game on Saturday night didn’t seem like universal justice

“We had eight days of preparation and games where we gave it our all because we knew the season wasn’t going the way we wanted it to,” said striker Jaemyn Brakefield. “But we’re just done, go just everything off and try to be a duke ”

With 2:44 and Virginia one point ahead, senior Jordan Goldwire sat down on the floor in a court press. His four teammates followed with the typical Duke move, keeping the Cavaliers goalless for the rest of the game

“In the last three games we’ve played really well on defense and it made a difference whether we win or lose,” said Krzyzewski

Despite gaudy distribution figures from Moore – seven templates for a turnover – Krzyzewski looked to the rookie back seat of Jeremy Roach and DJ Steward next to Goldwire for the home track

With no real off-season and few non-conference improvements, the maturation process for the two young guards was undoubtedly difficult in a season of inconsistent games, however Roach quietly backed the Duke offensive with several giant buckets, the most important of which came to a knight to end the game with 4:17 after 60

Steward fought for the ball all night, finishing the 2-of-7 from the field and the 1-of-5 from the 3-point range, but the growth of the Whitney Young product eventually shone, leaving the mistakes for two of Duke’s biggest field goals in the final minutes Steward threw down a three to wipe out the rest of Virginia’s biggest lead in the second half at 5:49, and took the team 2:41 in a contested plunge from the baseline on one

“[Roach and Steward] were really good newbiesGood players, but for newbies they were really good,” said Krzyzewski. “They are out there learning from their experiences Jeremy had one of his best games tonight and DJ, he met one giant shot They are good players and get better and better as they mature physically and emotionally ”

But the star of the show had to be Brakefield, who sat in the shadows for much of the ACC game, but now finds a bigger role, whether it was a recovery block against Kihei Clark or the game-changing argument with Jay Huff , the newcomer saw the moment and attacked him

“Do I feel like a newbie? I’m 20 years old and have been playing high-level basketball for a while, “said Brakefield.” But as the season went on, my game evolved, I was just out there and felt more comfortable “

As time ran out, the Blue Devils sprinted away from Coach K Court full of raw emotion and smiles with the season on the line, Duke played fearlessly, adding another scar for a team in desperate need of hard-fought victories

“It felt so good,” said Hurt. “The season didn’t go the way we wanted it to. There was a lot of negativity But we’re just going to try not to take anything for granted and get better every day”

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Source: https://www.dukechronicle.com/article/2021/02/duke-basketball-virginia-upset-brakefield-steward-roach-hurt-acc-ncaa-tournament