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Duke Dominates Virginia, 79-54

When you look at the Virginia game, it's hard to get past this: 17 turnovers in the first half.  We're just guessing, but if someone were to do the research, we're pretty sure that no team has ever won after 17 first-half turnovers.

Duke really came after Virginia hard in the first half, on both ends of the court.  Offensively, Gerald Henderson saw to it that Duke got off to a fast start, personally outscoring Virginia, 12-11 early on. But it wasn't just Henderson who was being aggressive.

Lance Thomas, who started in place of Brian Zoubek, drove for a dunk on Duke's second possession.  And Nolan Smith also hit seven straight points as Duke ripped off a 27-7 run which, along with the turnovers, basically settled the issue.  Duke won 79-54, defeating Virginia for the 13th straight time in Cameron and the 23rd out of the last 25 overall.

Duke's improved offense can be summed up this way:  Kyle Singler had only five points and five boards, and it didn't matter.

Along the way, Duke also played some really good defense, again holding an opponent under 60 points.  Virginia's star freshman, Sylven Landenberg, turned the ball over three times in the opening minutes and got called for two charges.  Sammy Zeglinski, who showed some nice things in this game, had trouble moving the ball at times.  Aside from Landesberg, who ended up shooting 8-10, no one except Mike Scott shot well (he was 4-8).  Assane Sense was 2-2, but that was basically just big man garbage points.

There were a lot of good things in this game, not least of all seeing Henderson, Smith, and Thomas assert themselves.  But as good as that was, it wasn't what got our attention. This is what did.

Basketball is somewhat like golf in that it's hard to really get in a groove and to be in control.  In golf, it's just difficult to do, period, but at least you're just one guy.  In basketball, there are a million things that work against you - the opponents, your teammates at times, the crowd, the rims, the officials - it's really uncommon to see someone really get a major groove going. So when we realized Jon Scheyer was in one for a few minutes in the second half, we really enjoyed watching it.

Part of it was scoring, of course, but part of it was just that, for a few minutes, he had the game on a string.  He made the pass before a pass for an assist, he moved to just the right spot defensively - he just knew where the game was going, and he got there first.

That doesn't happen very often, but we've seen him do it before. Lately, though, he's been in a bit of a funk, and while his shot has been a major part of it, he has at times been...well not passive exactly, but not really at his best, either.  Scheyer gets a lot of attention for scoring, and for his defense, which is less celebrated but also quite good.  But at times, he's just able to read the game on an incredible level.  Mike Dunleavy could do it. Shane Battier could, too, and Grant Hill. Maybe a few more Duke guys.  But it's a short list.

In the second half, Virginia played much better.  While Duke outscored them by 22 in the first half, they only scored three more than the Cavaliers in the second. They cut their turnovers down to six, too.

The biggest problem Virginia has is simply youth.  It would be less of a problem if Mamadi Diane hadn't disappeared offensively this season, but that's as is.  Like State, and for that matter Georgia Tech, Virginia is a couple of players short of a really good team, but a lot of the pieces of a good team are there.  It's interesting to imagine what they would be like had they managed to recruit Ed Davis, for instance, and then if Diane could somehow rediscover his offense.

Zeglinski showed some really nice instincts as a point guard, making some nice passes in traffic and knowing where his teammates were.  Duke's pressure got to him at times, but he's got potential.

Scott is a reasonable power forward, even though he's most likely a role player and won't become a dominant force.  But he'll do. And Mustapha Farrakhan and Jeff Jones both showed some quickness and hustle.  And at some point, Assane Sene may become a huge force inside.  And of course Landesberg has a really bright future.

But that's all likely down the road.  This year could be a tough one for Virginia, and the rest of their schedule is pretty brutal:  they get BC, UNC, Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech, State, Miami, Wake Forest, Clemson again, and Maryland, and none of those are going to be easy wins for Virginia.

It's entirely possible that they could lose them all, which would be bad news for Dave Lietao, who may already be under a bit of pressure. Boo birds are starting to come out at Virginia's new barn.  Patience is what's needed, but whether or not he'll get it is an open question.