Virginia sputters into March by getting rolled at No. 10 Duke

Virginia sputters into March by getting rolled at No. 10 Duke

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 0

DURHAM, N.C. — Virginia men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett stood by the bench for long stretches of the Cavaliers’ game Saturday night, his hands clenched behind his back as he stared in frustration at what was unfolding amid the frenzied atmosphere of Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Occasionally he would hang his head when No. 10 Duke uncorked another dunk as part of an overwhelming performance inside, where Bennett’s vaunted pack-line defense typically thrives. But lately the Cavaliers’ trademark has been betraying them, leading to results such as this 73-48 loss that continued a spiral with the postseason right around the corner.

Virginia (21-9, 12-7 ACC) lost for the third time in four games after permitting 44 points in the paint and 49.2 percent shooting to a team it had been chasing for second place in the conference. The Cavaliers instead are assured to finish no higher than third in the race for seeding in the ACC tournament.

The top four teams receive double byes in the ACC tournament, which begins March 12 at Capital One Arena. With one game remaining, the Cavaliers have much to fix if they are to make a deep run.

“We’ve been in this spot before,” Bennett said. “We’ve gotten blown out by a few teams. Every game is important. We’re fighting like crazy to finish as high as we can in the conference, get the best seed we can, fight for an NCAA tournament berth. All that stuff matters, and so as crappy as I feel right now, we’re still playing in meaningful games.”

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Reece Beekman led the Cavaliers with 18 points to go with seven assists and six rebounds. The senior guard and reigning ACC defensive player of the year shot 7 for 15 and committed four of Virginia’s dozen turnovers that led to 16 points for the Blue Devils (23-6, 14-4). Sophomore guard Isaac McKneely added 12 points but was 3 for 11 from the field.

No other Cavaliers reached double figures in points on a night Virginia went 5 for 17 (29.4 percent) on three-pointers and 9 for 13 (69.2) at the foul line. The Cavaliers are the worst foul shooting team in the ACC, a major concern for a group that typically plays low-possession games.

Virginia shot 30.9 percent overall to fall to 1-3 against ranked opponents, including 0-2 in the ACC. It led for just 15 seconds in its failed bid to win two in a row at Cameron Indoor for the first time since 1982. The Cavaliers won, 69-68, here in 2022, when Beekman made a three-pointer with 1.1 seconds left.

Beekman is the only player on the Virginia roster who had played at Duke before Saturday.

“It’s a tough place to play,” McKneely said. “Coach Bennett, the message before the game was ‘Take it all in at first — cool experience — but after that, block out the crowd.’ I don’t think the crowd was as much a factor as our lack of play.”

The Blue Devils had three players score in double digits, led by Kyle Filipowski’s game-high 21 points on 9-for-14 shooting to go with seven rebounds. The 7-foot sophomore center, last season’s ACC rookie of the year, was playing his second straight game since he required assistance reaching the locker room after he was caught in a court storming by Wake Forest fans celebrating a triumph Feb. 24.

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Tyrese Proctor had 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting for the Blue Devils, who held a 42-29 advantage in rebounding. The sophomore guard also had a significant hand in keeping McKneely in check.

“If our defense isn’t sound or right and we’re playing a team with the firepower of certainly Duke, it can get separated quick,” Bennett said. “That’s a humbling place to be, and so you know that going in, and you work at it, and you try to prepare as well as you can. But they got the ball in the lane, down the floor, on the glass — every which way.”

The outcome was all but a formality after Virginia wilted at both ends of the court on the way to a 40-18 halftime deficit. The Cavaliers permitted 28 points in the paint, missed five layups and went 1 for 6 on three-pointers in a disastrous opening 20 minutes. They also committed seven first-half turnovers after entering the weekend leading the country in fewest turnovers per game (8.2).

“Every kid’s dream is to play here,” said Virginia forward Ryan Dunn, who scored nine points. “It was great playing here, but as a competitor we were a little bit rocked in the first half. They came out; they played well. We were little bit shaken up offensively, and that can’t happen. We can’t get off to slow starts like we did earlier in the year.”

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