DURHAM, N.C. (AP)—Luol Deng didn’t care about the pain and stiffness coming from his injured tailbone. He just wanted to play.
After missing most of the first half with the injury, Deng scored all 11 of his points in the second half to lift No. 1 Duke past Virginia 93-75 on Wednesday night.
J.J. Redick scored 25 points to lead five players in double figures for the Blue Devils (21-1, 10-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who have won 18 straight games overall and 39 in a row at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Shelden Williams added 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Duke has won 18 of 20 meetings with the Cavaliers (12-9, 2-8) dating to the 1995-96 season.
Deng was injured while charging into Elton Brown with 16:37 left. He limped off the court under his own power and was sidelined for the rest of the half.
But Deng returned with 16:29 to play and provided a spark to a Blue Devils team struggling to put away the pesky Cavaliers. He finished with five rebounds, three steals and a blocked shot in 15 minutes.
The freshman—who had averaged 20.3 points and 9.7 rebounds in his last three games—said he initially didn’t think he’d be able to return as he lay on the court.
“The game was getting close,” Deng said. “I really went out there just to pick everybody up. I wasn’t going out there to score 11 points or whatever. I just went out there to play.”
He scored nine points in 4 minutes, beginning with an up-and-under move that drew a foul on Derrick Byars. He completed the three-point play for a 55-47 lead, then drained a jumper off a feed from Redick from the right corner to maintain the eight-point edge.
Virginia clawed within 57-54 on a stickback from Brown and a 3 from Byars, but the Blue Devils answered with a 17-5 run that restored their double-digit lead.
Deng was key in that run, scoring on a stickback of a miss by Sean Dockery then firing the outlet pass that led to Chris Duhon’s transition layup for a 63-54 lead with 11:41 to play.
The freshman then brought the rowdy Cameron crowd to its feet with a two-handed slam off an alley-oop pass from Duhon.
“When you’re a special player like Luol is, he can do that for us anytime he wants to,” said Duhon, who had 12 points and six assists. “He knew we needed him and he made some big-time plays.”
Duhon finished the run on the next play, finding Williams with a behind-the-back pass on the break for another slam and a 74-59 lead with 8:10 to play.
Duhon finished with four steals and became Duke’s all-time theft leader with 268, passing Shane Battier (266).
It was the second straight game in which the Blue Devils struggled to put away one of the ACC’s worst teams. Virginia came in tied with Clemson for last in the conference.
The Blue Devils beat the Tigers 81-55 on Sunday, but led only by 10 midway through the second half. They got off to a quick start against the Cavaliers, but had trouble landing the knockout punch in a physical game that also saw Williams, Dockery and Shavlik Randolph get banged up.
The Blue Devils have a two-game lead on No. 21 North Carolina State (15-5, 8-2) heading into Sunday’s game against the Wolfpack in Raleigh.
“We’re taking everyone’s best shot every game,” said Randolph, who finished with eight points and five rebounds. “Most of the teams have nothing to lose … because they’re expected to lose, especially in Cameron. We’ve got to come out and do it, night after night.”
Brown scored 24 points for Virginia, which fell to 1-25 all-time against top-ranked teams, including an 0-13 mark against Duke when it is No. 1.
Williams and the Blue Devils had trouble stopping Brown, who hurt the Blue Devils with his tough moves in the post and his second-chance baskets. But the Cavaliers committed 15 turnovers, leading to 18 Duke points.
Brown also had eight rebounds and three assists for the Cavaliers, who shot 47 percent.
“It wasn’t good enough,” Virginia coach Pete Gillen said of his team’s effort. “They’re certainly a better team, but we played as hard as we can play. We played with some courage and that’s all you can do.”
J.R. Reynolds added 16 points for the Cavaliers, who were playing without second-leading scorer Devin Smith. Smith, who averages 12.5 points per game, was sidelined with a herniated disc.
Duke shot 52 percent and outrebounded Virginia 38-25.