Duke Storms by Virginia, 63-41
March 5, 1998
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) – The atmosphere in Duke’s locker room suggestedanything but another victory for the top-ranked Blue Devils.
All around the crowded, steamy quarters, players shook their heads, spoke inhushed tones and haltingly tried to explain their struggles Thursday nightagainst the worst team in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“It’s not acceptable for our team to play that way,” Roshown McLeod saidafter Duke was held to 38 percent shooting and was battled to a 38-38 standoffon the boards by a smaller, slower Virginia team.
Overcoming a first half in which they missed 16 of their last 19 field-goalattempts and shot 35 percent, the Blue Devils overpowered Virginia in thesecond half for a 63-41 victory in the opening round of the conferencetournament.
“We’re fortunate to have another opportunity to come back and play, becausethis is a one-and-done time of year,” said McLeod, who missed 11 of his 16field-goal attempts, but still led the Blue Devils with 14 points.
Duke (28-2) forced turnovers on seven of Virginia’s first eight possessionsin the second half and converted them into eight points, fueling an 11-0 runthat sent the Blue Devils into Saturday’s semifinals.
“They’re a team with a lot of weapons, and they keep coming in waves. Ittook its toll on us,” said Norman Nolan, who led Virginia with 13 points and15 rebounds.
Duke came into the tournament after winning an ACC-record 15 games in theregular season. This year marks the fifth time in the 1990s the Blue Devilsentered the tournament as the top seed, but they have just one title to showfor it.
“This was one of those nights when your big guns just struggled andeverybody else had to try to step up and help out,” said Shane Battier, whohad nine points, six rebounds and two of Duke’s nine steals. “We’ve got plentyto think about for Saturday.”
Duke scored 14 of its 34 points in the second half off turnovers and limitedVirginia to its lowest point total in the school’s 71-game ACC tournamenthistory.
“I guess you could say this is, I don’t know, maybe a fitting end to atough year,” coach Jeff Jones said after his Cavaliers turned it over 21 timesand shot 34 percent. “It makes it tough to beat a team like Duke when youstruggle so much offensively.”
Virginia (11-19) finished with its most losses since the 1962-63 Cavalierswent 5-20. The Cavaliers also had the misfortune of becoming the first team inNCAA history to lose five games in one season to a No. 1 team. Virginia went0-3 against Duke and lost both games to North Carolina when the Tar Heels werethe nation’s top-ranked team.
Virginia senior Curtis Staples, who concluded his career as the mostprolific 3-point shooter in NCAA history, took 13 shots from beyond the arc andmade three in what may have been the final game for Jones. There has beengrowing speculation in recent weeks that Virginia may replace Jones, who is146-104 in his eight-year tenure.
Jones said he planned to hit the recruiting trail as soon as possible and”approach things as business as usual. I think it’s very clear that we need todo some things to get the direction of the program turned around. And that’ssomething that we can’t or we won’t waste any time doing.”
The Blue Devils used a 16-3 run in the first half to go ahead to stay. Butthey made just one field goal in the final six minutes, helping Virginia cutits halftime deficit to 29-24.
Duke turned up the defensive intensity at the start of the second half,setting the stage for the Blue Devils’ eighth consecutive victory andVirginia’s 11th loss in 12 games.
Scoring their first eight points off Virginia turnovers, the Blue Devilsbuilt a 40-24 lead before the Cavaliers answered. A short jumper by Nolan cutVirginia’s deficit to 14 before Duke gradually built its lead to 19.
The Cavaliers were unable to cut their deficit to less than 14 the rest ofthe way. The final margin represented Duke’s largest lead.
Virginia’s lowest scoring output in the tournament before Thursday night was45 in a loss to North Carolina in the 1982 championship game.