Mike Scott led the team with 23 points against Duke.
Riding the program’s longest winning streak since 1981-82 at 12 games, the Virginia men’s basketball team couldn’t snap a different streak against Duke on Thursday night. The No. 16 Cavaliers dropped a hard-fought 61-58 decision to the No. 8 Blue Devils, marking the Hoos’ 15th straight defeat at Cameron Indoor Stadium. No. 16 UVa fell to 14-2 with the loss.
“I just told my teammates that tonight showed we can play with anybody in this league. That first 10 minutes of the second half really hurt us, but we fought back hard. It shouldn’t have to be like that. We should always come out and have the energy, but [this should] just tell them that we can play with anybody in this league,” Virginia’s Mike Scott said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network.
Indeed, the first 10 minutes after intermission proved pivotal in the outcome. After the Hoos took a 32-28 lead into the half, Duke came out on fire in the second half. The Blue Devils opened the half by making 11 of its first 14 shots, which included a 7-0 run that led to a 45-38 lead. That burst included several baskets deep in the paint or in transition.
UVa, meanwhile, couldn’t find its offensive rhythm at the start of the second half. A scoring drought of nearly four minutes in between 10:00 and 15:30 on the clock dropped the visitors behind by seven points and they had to play catch-up basketball the rest of the way.
“I think we basically came out strong, but that first 10 minutes of the second half really wasn’t us. They scored at will and they got dunks, transition points, and scored in the paint,” Scott said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network.”But I think we fought back hard and it just came down to a last shot.”
UVa’s guards struggled to score in the loss to Duke.
The Cavaliers did claw their way back to a one possession game in the final minute when Akil Mitchell slammed home an offensive rebound to make it 61-58. After a defensive stop, the Hoos had the ball with less than 15 seconds remaining and they opted not to use their final timeout in the late-game situation. Instead, UVa ran a set for Scott that had produced a made 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the first half but that attempt and a second shot to tie the game – a Jontel Evans ‘ attempt just to the right of the top of the key on the long offensive rebound – missed the mark.
Those final two shots left Virginia 0-11 in the second half from 3-point range, a critical statistic in what turned out to be a three-point margin of defeat. Of course, 3-pointers often fall to the backcourt players and the Cavaliers’ 5-man rotation in the guard/wing spots struggled to provide some scoring punch; the quintet made just 2 of 14 triples in the game. In fact, other than Joe Harris ‘ 14 points, the other four guards combined for 7 points on 3-of-23 shooting. Harris also chipped in 5 rebounds and 2 assists.
Malcolm Brogdon posted 5 points and Paul Jesperson added 2 points, while the starting backcourt tandem of Evans and Sammy Zeglinski failed to score. Evans went 0-6 in the game, but did post a season-high 6 assists with 0 turnovers. Zeglinski missed all eight of his shot attempts and did not score, but he registered 5 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals.
“We thought one of our keys was going to be to get some perimeter help for Mike,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network. “I look at the stat sheet and I see that Sammy was 0-5 from three and 0-8 and Jontel was 0-6, that’s hard but they still did some good things. That’s something we certainly have to learn from.”
Scott certainly did his part, posting his a second straight 20-point game for the first time in his career. The senior forward actually has produced ACC career-highs for scoring in the first two games of the conference schedule with 23 points in each outing. Against Duke, he made 10 of 19 shots to reach that number and he came up with 9 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal too.
With Thursday night’s points, Scott moved into 29th place on the program’s career scoring charts where he passed Roger Mason Jr., Kenny Turner, and Jim Miller. Scott now has 1,233 points in his career.
Scott and Virginia left an impression on Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“They’re a veteran team. I actually thought we played a little bit quicker tempo than we normally play. The only way to really influence tempo is to press with your defense, and that would have been not good for us tonight. They are who they are, which is very good. And they’re going to be right in the running for our league, the NCAA Tournament. I think this Virginia team is unbelievably solid with a great player,” Krzyzewski said. “In that first half, we were defending everybody and they went to [Scott] – he just produced points. When you have a guy who can do that, it’s pretty … good. That guy is a really good player. And Tony [Bennett]’s a really good coach, so he’s going to get him the ball. It’s a nice combination – good players and outstanding coach – and all of a sudden 14-2.”