clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Duke Downs UVa, Gets Tech Next

It wasn't as pretty as we might have liked, but Duke defeated a really
impressiveVirginia team 84-74.

We assumed that Virginia would be tired after playing late last night:
wrong. They were maybe the best eighth place ACC team we've ever
seen. It sounds like damning with faint praise, but they were really solid
and pushed Duke to the limit until the very end of the game.

We have an enormous respect, above all else, for Devin Smith, who has played
for months with a herniated disk. We have some idea of what that might feel
like, and it would be hard to tie your shoes, much less run into someone the
size of Shelden Williams.

The mind boggles.

Yet there he is, game after game, even though he can't practice very often,
doing his best and having a huge impact on the game.

We also have developed a healthy respect for T.J. Bannister, who blew by Sean
Dockery often enough that we wondered if Dockery's ankle was still a
problem. He's such a solid defender that generally no one rushes by him
like that.

But Bannister did. Once he has a threat in his shot, he's going to be a
tremendous point guard.

JR Reynolds, Derrick Byars, Gary Forbes, and Donte Minter all give hope for
the future.

For Duke, Shelden Williams and Daniel Ewing led the way with 27 and 26 points
respectively. Williams was sensational offensively: 8-9 from the floor,
11-13 from the line. Ewing had a tremendous game before fouling out, and
made what we hope is a continuing statement about being left off the All-ACC

Luol Deng presented matchup problems and contributed five rebounds to go with
Williams' eight. He also had four blocks to go with Shelden's three.

Basically the game could be summed up this way: Duke would pull ahead, then
try for a big push, which didn't materialize, UVa would creep back into it,
although not all the way, but close enough to keep the crowd involved.

What's really remarkable to us is how much this team has evolved, and how
quickly. At one point in the season, they seemed doomed, and it looked as
if they might slide to a losing record. But after the last Duke game, they
gained confidence, and really did some nice things to turn their season
around. We hope they can get a bid. It's a long shot, but we hope so.

For Duke, it was nice - and smart - to see Horvath and Melchionni get more
minutes. This game wasn't as intense or draining as either UNC-Tech, which
was extremely intense, or State-FSU, which featured a grind-it-out comeback by
the Pack, but it still took some effort, and not everyone bounces back in their
second game the way Virginia did. Obviously we hope Duke does, but let's
face it, three games in three days is a grind.

It would be less of a grind if JJ Redick gets untracked. He had a
dreadful offensive game, getting in early foul trouble and shooting only 1-6 .
He only played 20 minutes, but did hit key free throws at the end.

Tech will come at him hard on Saturday, and he'll just have to be ready for
it. On the bright side, knowing Krzyzewski's mindset somewhat, we're sure
he's been pitched on the positive idea that he's rested, and most everyone else
(meaning Tech) got a war on Friday.

Before the tournament, Chris Duhon said that he wanted to know who was
playing for second. Great line, but you have to back it up. Don't
get us wrong, we're not quibbling with a win. A less-than-perfect win is
way better than a passionate loss, but so far, they're not rolling over people
in the field. Rolling over Tech would be nice, but very difficult.

As far as that goes, though, with Redick presumably motivated by a poor game,
and Deng likely still remembering his last performance against Tech, we hope
Duke will come out with an iron will. We don't know what will happen, but
the chances of Deng having such a bad game, and of Schencher dominating again,
seem slim.

And before we forget, a quick word about Chris Duhon. A couple of
people have written lately to say we don't know what we're talking about when we
praise his game and call him a great player. Maybe they're just looking at
the stats. He controls his team, he has shaped it, and when it's do-or-die
time, he usually does something positive. In this case, he made a key
steal near the end of the game which considerably deflated Virginia. He's
just a winner, and we won't realize just how true that is until he's gone.

A final word about Virginia: we just can't get over what this team has
accomplished. No, they probably won't get a bid. But when it seemed
impossible, when a lot of guys would pack it in, they dug down, and somehow,
they got damn good damn fast. A lot of the credit goes to the players, of
course, but since Pete Gillen has taken heat for the problems, he should get
credit for fixing them, too. If we're UVa fans, we're excited: it's a
solid core of players, with outstanding freshmen coming in. This team has the
potential to really make some noise next year. We'd get rid of the hideous
uniforms and get something sleek and stylish, but that is a small point. The
makeover is complete, and Gillen should get the credit. We hope Virginia
gives him the credit he is due and retains him. We think he's earned that.