CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Joe Harris had just scored a career-high 36 points, essentially half of his team's total in a 73-68 victory against No. 3 Duke, and the junior guard was talking about "a team effort" and how the Cavaliers played "sound defense."
Joe, was that the best performance of your basketball career?
"I guess you could say that," he finally allowed.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski wasn't quite as reluctant to heap on the praise.
"Harris was fantastic, which we knew he would be. He's just one of the best players in the country," Krzyzewski said. "When you have a guy playing at that level ... it brings everybody up. You know you're playing with a stud."
Harris and Akil Mitchell, who had 19 points and 12 rebounds, combined for 55 of the Cavaliers' points as they celebrated the 11-year anniversary of their last victory over a top 5 team by doing it again on Thursday night.
When Virginia's 16th consecutive home victory was finished, fans stormed the court.
"It's just great," senior point guard Jontel Evans said. "They're the reason we go so hard when we're here. We feed off their energy. They've been great. They've just been unbelievable this year. I've never seen support like this."
Virginia (20-8, 10-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) beat No. 3 Duke 87-84 11 years ago, their last top 5 victory.
This time, Duke never led.
"That's unbelievable right there, that they never led in the game," Evans said.
Seth 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.
Mason Plumlee finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and three turnovers.
Virginia outrebounded Duke 36-26, and held the Blue Devils to 39.6 percent shooting (21 of 53).
"It was a very, very physical game and we're not equipped to that type of game. We got knocked back," Krzyzewski said.
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.
When Virginia added a 7-2 burst a short time later, the lead was 49-35 with 8:15 left 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. They got it with a fast start and a stifling defensive effort. And the Cavaliers did it despite making only three 3-pointers, more than four below their 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, his 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.
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