Senior Night ends Duke's 5 year reign of ACC Title
March 2, 2002
Thursday night, Virginia (17-9, 7-8) ended a three game losing streak by defeating #3 Duke 87-84 at home for the second straight year. The atmosphere in University Hall was electric as senior night ended on not only a Cavalier victory, but with a renewed hope of securing an NCAA bid.
Head coach Pete Gillen said, “I’m very proud of our team. We kept swinging. We weren’t defending for a good part of the game and we finally started defending during the last three or four minutes. In our four years at Virginia, it was one of the biggest wins, if not the biggest. Coming off the down tick things weren’t going well, [our team] was not playing well. [We have been] trying to recover from different situations, injuries, so this was definitely one of the biggest wins we’ve had since being at Virginia. I’m very happy for the players, they’ve caught a lot of abuse. They deserved it, we beat a great team.”
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski also had praise for the performance of Virginia’s team. Krzyzewski said, “It wasn’t one kid’s character. It was the character of the team. They should be applauded for that. We missed some shots, but they were terrific. Those upperclassmen have been through a lot and they made it happen tonight.”
While elated with the victory over the Blue Devils, both Gillen and his team are keeping their goals in perspective. “It was a big shot in the arm beating a great team. We certainly have a gigantic hurdle Sunday and then we got the ACC Tournament. We’ll just go day by day.” Gillen said.
High off the win over Duke, the Cavaliers are anticipating another tough battle against theMaryland Terrapins Sunday night at Cole Field House. Virginia is clearly looking to avenge the emotional 91-87 loss the Terrapins (24-3, 14-0) handed them earlier in the season. Gillen said, “I think that we can beat anybody on a given night, and we can lose to anybody on our schedule on a given night. We just have to defend better. When we defend better, we’re a better team.”
Junior, center Travis Watson said, “This [win over Duke] is not the end of our goals, it is just a milestone. We stepped up to the challenge, got one down, one more to go. This is a good momentum striker for us to go into Cole Field House and try to win.”
Teammate Chris Williams adds “We have another killer game coming up here on Sunday and one of our goals is to reach post-season play and that is going to help us do that. We can’t let our hair down, we have to get ready for Maryland.”
Junior guard Roger Mason Jr. shares the same emotion with his team. “We’re trying to win as many as we can. The next game we’re going to try to win that one too, I’m not going to even think about the NCAA Tournament. I just know that if we win, they gotta put us in,” Mason said.
Gillen’s “day by day” approach demonstrates the positive new attitude of the team. Senior forward Adam Hall states, “A lot of people have been doubting this team, this team is still fighting hard. We’re not satisfied yet. We are just going to go out there and keep on fighting and fighting and keep trying to get victories.”
Finally, Mason states, “We haven’t reached our goals. We haven’t even scratched the surface of our potential. I still think that we can play a little better. Beating Duke is not our super bowl, it is just a start.”