The Virginia men’s basketball team led at halftime for the third time in three ACC games this season, but for the second straight Saturday the Hoos didn’t hold the advantage. This time around, Duke spoiled UVa’s upset hopes with a devastating second half scoring punch, which helped turn a six-point deficit at intermission into a 76-60 win. The Cavaliers fell to 1-2 in ACC play with the loss.
Virginia, battling through depleted depth on an already inexperienced roster, sputtered to the finish line in Cameron Indoor Stadium after building a 10-point lead at one point in the first half. UVa scored just 29 points after halftime and suffered through an 8-minute stretch with just one field goal. In total, the Hoos made just eight baskets after intermission while shooting 30.8% from the floor. The script was similar to that of the North Carolina game last weekend when the Cavaliers led at the half, but scored just six buckets in the second session.
“I told our guys in the locker room after the game, again 28, 30 minutes, they played so hard and they executed and they did good things, things to build on in a tough setting against a heckuva team. Then the last 10 minutes, I thought we fractured defensively. We really made Duke earn, most of the game up until that point, with our defense. We were in position [and] we fought,” UVa coach Tony Bennett said. “We told them it was going to be a battle for your composure and your toughness and when that went away, that’s when Duke separated quickly. Certainly we had some trouble scoring and when we got down we probably panicked a little bit with turnovers, but [it was] a learning experience. It was just frustrating to see the game separate like that with whatever was left.”
Indeed, Duke did hammer down the accelerator in rapid fashion. With the Hoos leading 44-39, Duke ripped off an 8-0 run in 59 seconds to take the lead at 47-44. That initial burst included a turnover that became a thunderous Nolan Smith dunk that ignited the building and the Devils. While the visitors hung tough for a few more moments, they simply couldn’t keep pace. Andre Dawkins hit a trio of 3-pointers, including two for six straight Duke points, and the hosts took a 62-52 lead. It all added up to a 51-29 second half for the Blue Devils, who won their 14th straight game against the Cavaliers in Durham.
Smith finished with 29 points for Duke and Dawkins added 14. Kyle Singler finished with 13. Virginia countered with 15 points each from Mustapha Farrakhan and Joe Harris , but the second half offensive struggles were too much to overcome.
Bennett said Dawkins’ play proved to be a key part of the outcome.
“Those threes he hit, those were the dagger, those two. I think they were back-to-back. He did a good job. [He has] a beautiful stroke,” Bennett said. “He gets his feet set and again they were 5 of 20 [from 3-point range], so it wasn’t like they were going, but he was the one guy. They space you so well and if they get a little crease on you and you got to help, they kick it out and it’s a challenge because their spacing is excellent, especially with Kyle [Singler] as the four. That’s a hard match-up.”
The Cavaliers have to put the Saturday losses to the ACC’s marquee names in the rearview mirror, however, with 13 more ACC games remaining on the schedule. The next test comes on Wednesday night with a 7 p.m. trip to Boston College.