CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Behind a career-high 36 points from Joe Harris, Virginia took a big early lead and held on for a 73-68 upset of No. 3 Duke and a huge NCAA resume-boosting win Thursday night at John Paul Jones Arena.
The Cavaliers, who snapped an eight-game losing streak against Duke and extended their current home-court winning streak to 16 games, were in desperate need of a marquee victory to offset early season losses to the likes of Delaware and Old Dominion.
In their second game against a top-five team in nine days, the Cavaliers (20-8, 10-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) made the most of their opportunity. They led by as many as 15 in the second half and held off a late charge from Duke (22-4, 11-4).
Virginia's win clinched at least a share of the ACC regular-season title for idle Miami, which can finish no worse than 14-4 in conference play.
Seth Curry scored 28 points to lead the Blue Devils. Quinn Cook had 22.
Akil Mitchell added 19 points and 12 rebounds for Virginia.
The Cavaliers extended a five-point halftime lead to 12 less than six minutes into the second half thanks to strong free-throw shooting. Virginia led 34-26 after two Mitchell free throws with 16:47 left. After two fruitless offensive trips, the Blue Devils lost their cool defensively. Rasheed Sulaimon fouled Harris going to the basket and turned around and barked at referee Roger Ayers, drawing a technical foul.
Harris knocked down four straight free throws to extend Virginia's lead to 38-26 with 15:10 to play.
Duke drew within nine on Curry's basket with 4:53 to play. But Harris knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 4:34 left to push the lead to 60-48. Duke snuck within 71-67 on Cook's 3-pointer with 22 seconds left, but Evan Nolte hit two free throws on the other end to seal the win.
Virginia got off to a scorching start, scoring the game's first nine points, the final four coming from light-scoring point guard Jontel Evans, who was averaging 4.5 points per game.
Duke got on the board when Sulaimon won a scramble for a loose ball and hit a layup with 15:21 remaining.
The Cavaliers stretched their lead to 18-6 on a Harris three-point play with 10:55 left. A costly foul helped Duke get back on track. Taylor Barnette hit Curry on a 3-point attempt right in front of the Virginia bench, and Curry knocked down two of the three free throws, sparking an 8-2 Duke surge that featured two Cook 3-pointers. A Curry 3 with 4:26 left in the half cut Virginia's lead to 22-21.
Virginia maintained the lead throughout the half, though. Duke's leading scorer, Mason Plumlee, didn't hit a field goal until 2:50 remained in the half, a shot that drew the Blue Devils within 24-23. But Virginia scored the final four points of the half, including two on a Mitchell putback of his own miss with 12 seconds left, to take a 28-23 lead into the break.
NOTES: Because of the ACC's unbalanced schedule, Duke was making its first trip to Charlottesville since the 2010-11 season. ... Though he participated in pregame warmups, Duke F Ryan Kelly missed his 13th straight game with an injured foot. But there is hope he might be available to play next week in one of the Blue Devils' final two regular-season games. ... Virginia was 0-5 (UPDATE) against Duke under fourth-year coach Tony Bennett.