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Dec. 5, 1997

Virginia Set to Challenge Top-Ranked Blue Devils

  • Virginia at Duke
  • December 6, 1997
  • 2:00 p.m.
  • Cameron Indoor Stadium
  • Durham, N.C.

Virginia (1997-98 record: 4-1 overall) faces top-ranked Duke (1997-98 record: 7-0 overall) in the first ACC game of the season for both teams. Tip off is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.

Jeff  Jones
Virginia head coach Jeff Jones. (File Photo)

Television: Today's game is being televised on the Raycom/Jefferson-Pilot ACC network. Tim Brando is the play by play announcer and Dan Bonner is the color analyst.

Radio: All UVa games are heard on the Virginia Sports Network originating at WINA/WQMZ in Charlottesville. Mac McDonald calls the play by play. Jim Hobgood provides the analysis.

The Series vs. the Blue Devils
Duke leads the all-time series with the Cavaliers 88-45. The Blue Devils have dominated the series in recent years, winning 24 of the last 32 meetings since Ralph Sampson's graduation from Virginia in 1983.

Virginia has had much better success against Duke in the 1990's, winning eight of the 17 games this decade. The Cavaliers have also won six of the last 11 meetings between the two schools.

Playing in front of the "Cameron Crazies" has been difficult for UVa as the Wahoos are 8-37 against Duke at Cameron. All-time Virginia is 10-42 on Duke's various home courts through the years.

The Blue Devils swept the season series last season--winning 78-59 in Durham and 62-61 in Charlottesville.

Cavaliers Face the Nation's Top-Ranked Team
Virginia opens its ACC schedule this afternoon against top-ranked Duke. The Blue Devils are the first ranked team the Cavaliers have faced so far this season.

Last season the Cavaliers faced two ranked teams in their first three games--#17 Massachusetts and #2 Kansas in the Maui Invitational in Hawaii.

This is the 17th time the Cavaliers have played the #1 team in the nation and the first time in four seasons.

Virginia's last game against the #1 team was a 75-56 loss to North Carolina in the semifinals of the 1993 ACC Tournament in Charlotte, N.C.

The Cavaliers have not fared well against top-ranked teams, posting a 1-15 all-time record. Virginia's lone win over the #1 team was an 86-73 win over North Carolina in Charlottesville on January 30, 1986.

Virginia has faced Duke five times when the Blue Devils were ranked number one and have lost all five.

Virginia's 77-69 win over #3 Duke on Jan. 17, 1993 is the highest ranked team the Cavaliers have ever beaten on the road.

A look at Virginia's games against Duke when the Blue Devils were ranked #1 is below.

Date            Site                        Result
Dec. 18, 1965   UVa                         Duke, 75-72
March 8, 1986   Greensboro, N.C. (ACC Trn.) Duke, 75-70
Jan. 7, 1989    UVa                         Duke, 84-76
Jan. 2, 1992    UVa                         Duke, 68-62
Feb. 26, 1992   Duke                        Duke, 76-67

Better Shooting Wins
Both Virginia and Duke are known for their outstanding play on the defensive end of the floor. As you might expect, the recent history of the Virginia/Duke series suggests that the team that shoots the ball best will win the game.

The two teams have met 15 times in the last seven years (the time Jeff Jones has been Virginia's head coach). In that span the team that has shot the ball best has won 12 times.

Duke shot 52.0 percent in last season's first meeting, the second-best percentage allowed by UVa all season. Virginia out-shot the Blue Devils in last season's second meeting 43.6 percent to 35.0 percent, but Duke pulled out a controversial 62-61 win.

A look at the two teams' field goal percentages over the last seven seasons is below.

Year/Site    UVa    Duke
UVa         .485    .375
Duke        .424    .500
UVa         .431    .436
Duke        .484    .517
Duke        .412    .368
UVa         .368    .359
UVa         .373    .462
Duke        .288    .525
ACC Trn.    .441    .362
Duke        .492    .443
UVa         .373    .407
UVa         .510    .348
Duke        .417    .404
Duke        .385    .520
UVa         .436    .350

Last 7 years:
Combined    .419    .428
UVa wins    .439    .379
UVa losses  .403    .464

Cavaliers Face First Ranked Team of Season
The ACC has a record seven teams ranked in the current Associated Press poll (everybody except Virginia and N.C. State).

Today's game against Duke is the first of what should be many games against ranked teams for Virginia this season.

The Cavaliers were 3-10 against AP-ranked teams last season (with wins against #17 UMass, #13 North Carolina and #16 Maryland).

The highest ranked opponent Virginia has ever beaten on the road was #3 Duke (77-69) on January 17, 1993.

Cavaliers Open ACC Play Today
Virginia opens its Atlantic Coast Conference schedule today against Duke. Duke was Virginia's traditional ACC opener for many years during the 1970's and '80s. In fact, the Cavaliers started vs. Duke for 12 consecutive seasons from 1981-92. This is the first time the Cavaliers have tipped off their ACC schedule against the Blue Devils since the 1991-92 season.

The Cavaliers have lost their conference opener the last two seasons, both at home. Clemson handed the Cavaliers a 62-52 loss in Charlottesville in last year's ACC opener.

All-time Virginia is 19-25 in ACC openers. The Cavaliers are 8-11 against Duke, 3-1 vs. Florida State, 1-0 vs. Georgia Tech, 1-7 vs. Maryland, 0-3 vs. North Carolina, 0-1 vs. Clemson and N.C. State, 5-1 vs. Wake Forest and 1-0 vs. South Carolina in ACC openers.

Norman Nolan
Norman Nolan has scored at least 13 points in every game this season. (File Photo)

Four Reach Double Figures in Win
Norman Nolan and Curtis Staples have generally carried the scoring load for Virginia so far this season. They are the only Cavaliers averaging more than eight points per game. Nolan has scored at least 13 points in every game, while Staples has scored at least 15 in every game but one (eight points vs. Appalachian State).

Nolan and Staples were the only players in double figures in the first two games this season--a loss to Richmond and a win over William & Mary.

In those two games Nolan and Staples scored 89 of UVa's 138 points (64.5 percent).

In the three games since then, they have been joined in double digits by several other players.

Monte Marcaccini scored a season-high 12 points off the bench in helping lift Virginia to a 60-45 win over George Mason.

As the season progresses, more players are rounding their offensive games into form.

Four Cavaliers reached double figures in the win over Delaware 11 days ago. Staples and Nolan were their usual selves scoring 19 and 14 points, respectively, and were joined in the scoring parade by Colin Ducharme and Donald Hand. Ducharme chipped in 11 points and Hand 10 as both reached the 10-point plateau for the fist time this season.

Appalachian State held Staples in check with just eight points, but Nolan and Ducharme picked up the slack. Nolan scored 17 points, while Ducharme pumped in a season-best 14 points. Ducharme missed his career high by one point.

One concern for head coach Jeff Jones and his staff is the heavy reliance on Nolan and Staples to provide the scoring. The Cavaliers have not had a starter other than those two score in double digits yet this season.

Going for Fifth Consecutive Win
The Cavaliers shoot to win their fifth consecutive game this afternoon against top-ranked Duke.

After opening the season with a double overtime loss to Richmond, the Cavaliers have reeled off four wins in a row by downing William & Mary, George Mason, Delaware and Appalachian State.

This is Virginia's longest winning streak since winning four straight (Georgia Tech, N.C. State, Richmond, Florida State) between January 22-February 1 last season.

Virginia hasn't had a five-game winning streak since putting together a seven-game run in February of 1995 (Florida State through Georgia Tech games).

Two Freshmen Split Point Guard Duties
Head coach Jeff Jones has had a succession of rookie point guards in his eight years at the helm of the Cavalier program. The last two players to see significant action at point guard for Virginia both started as freshmen--Cory Alexander and Harold Deane. This season alone has seen the Cavaliers start two different freshmen point guards--Donald Hand and Chezley Watson.

Hand won the preseason battle with Watson for the starting nod at point guard and started the season opener against Richmond on November 16.

Jones shuffled the line-up a bit for the William & Mary game, starting Watson at point guard. Watson has stayed in the starting line-up since that game by starting against George Mason, Delaware and Appalachian State.

Alexander took over the reins for John Crotty as a freshman in 1991-92, Jones' second season as Virginia's head coach, and helped lead the Cavaliers to the NIT championship.

When Alexander broke his ankle in the opener of the 1993-94 season, Deane immediately stepped into the line-up and started 27 of 31 games that season.

An historical footnote shows that Jones started 13 games at point guard as a Cavalier freshman in 1978-79.

Watson Starts Last Four at the Point
Chezley Watson, one of two freshmen point guards on this year's team, has started the last four games--all Virginia wins.

He made his first start against William & Mary on November 19 and scored seven points and dished off four assists in 21 minutes.

Watson led the team with seven assists in the 60-45 win over George Mason two weeks ago. He added six points and pulled down four rebounds in his 32 minutes.

He played just 15 minutes in Virginia's win over Delaware 11 days ago as Donald Hand had the hot scoring touch, but still tied for the team lead with four assists.

Watson was hurt by several turnovers early against Appalachian State and played just 10 minutes, scoring two points.

Prior to the Appalachian State game, Watson had at least four assists in every game. He has led the team in assists three times this season with a high of seven against George Mason.

Staples 27th Player in NCAA History to 300
Curtis Staples is known as one of the top three-point shooters in the nation. So far this season he is living up to his reputation by averaging 4.0 three-pointers per game with 20 treys in five games.

He has led the Cavaliers in scoring in two of the last three games and has topped the 20-point plateau twice this season.

Staples began the season by connecting on seven of 15 three-point attempts and scoring 26 points in the opener against Richmond.

He came back less than a week later against George Mason by hitting five of eight shots from behind the arc and finishing with a game-high 23 points.

Staples paced the Wahoos with 19 points against Delaware and was true on three shots behind the arc. He became just the 27th player in NCAA history to make 300 career three-pointers with his three against the Blue Hens.

He fell off a bit last Tuesday against Appalachian State, scoring a season-low eight points. Happily for the Cavaliers, Colin Ducharme (14 points), Donald Hand (eight points) and Monte Marcaccini (seven points) picked up the scoring slack.

The ACC leader in three-point field goals made the last three seasons, Staples is 23rd in NCAA history for career three-pointers (303) and 22nd in three-point attempts (795).

A look at Staples' place on the NCAA career three-point list is below.

    Player, school, years                       3FGM
19. Tom Pipkins, Duquesne, 1994-97              311
20. Scott Hartzell, UNC-Greensboro, 1993-96     309
21. Henry Williams, UNC Charlotte, 1989-92      308
22. Darnell Burton, Cincinnati, '93-94, '96-97  306
23. Curtis Staples, Virginia, 1995-98           303
Colin Ducharme
Colin Ducharme has been a solid contributor off the bench for the Cavs. (File Photo)

Bench Plays Big Role in Recent Wins
Virginia hasn't gotten a whole lot of production out of its bench so far this season, but the bench has contributed to wins in the last two games--over Delaware and Appalachian State.

Colin Ducharme came off the bench against Delaware and turned in a solid performance to help the Cavaliers down the homestanding Blue Hens.

Ducharme scored 11 points and grabbed four rebounds as Virginia won a tight contest 64-57.

Ducharme played another key role in the 62-54 win over Appalachian State. He scored 14 points and hauled in a career-high 11 rebounds in just 23 minutes.

Donald Hand also turned in perhaps his best game against the Mountaineers with a career-high eight assists and eight points. He also snatched four rebounds and made three steals.

Hand's performance was his second fine performance in a row. He scored 10 points and had five rebounds against Delaware in the game right before Appalachian State.

The bench's production recently is shown below.

              FGs   Rebs.   Pts.   Ast. Stls.   Min.
Delaware     7-18    14     21      3    3      65
App. State  11-20    21     29     10    4      77
Last 2 avg. 47.4%   17.5    25.0   6.5  3.5     71.0

Virginia Wins with Defense
Virginia has built a reputation for outstanding defensive play over the last 20 years and last season continued the pattern.

The Cavaliers allowed an average of 65.0 points per game and held the opposition to 40.9 percent field goal shooting. Twelve times last season opponents shot less than 38 percent from the field. The Cavaliers held the opposition under 40 percent 15 times.

Richmond scored 83 points in downing the Cavaliers in the season opener, but shot just 33.3 percent from the field.

As good as the Cavaliers' field goal percentage defense was against Richmond, it was even better against William & Mary three days later. The Tribe scored just 45 points, while shooting 28.8 percent from the field.

The Tribe's field goal shooting was the worst percentage by a Virginia opponent in 23 games, dating back to last season's Radford contest (27.9 percent).

George Mason couldn't muster much on the offensive end two weeks ago in Virginia's 60-45 win. The Patriots shot just 30.9 percent from the field and committed 23 turnovers.

Virginia's defensive clamps remained firm in the 64-57 win at Delaware as the Cavaliers held the Blue Hens to just 29.0 percent field goal shooting.

Appalachian State shot 39.0 percent, the highest by a Virginia opponent, the last time out. The Mountaineers shot 43.8 percent in the first half to hold a tight 32-31 halftime lead. But the Cavaliers turned up the defensive heat in the second half, holding the visitors from North Carolina to just 33.3 percent shooting in the final 20 minutes and won 62-54.

Virginia's opponents have shot 50 percent or better from the field in only 13 of the last 167 games dating back to the 1991-92 season.

Virginia's defensive statistics under head coach Jeff Jones are listed below.

Year             FG% D  PPG allowed
1990-91          .442    68.5
1991-92          .424    65.2
1992-93          .405    69.3
1993-94          .394    65.7
1994-95          .390    66.8
1995-96          .394    68.8
1996-97          .409    65.0
1997-98          .322    56.8
Jones' career    .407    66.8

Staples Works on the Boards
Curtis Staples has a well-deserved reputation as one of the nation's top long-range shooters, but an overlooked aspect of his game is his rebounding ability.

Standing just 6-3, Staples is second on the team in rebounding this season with a 6.4 rebounding average. His average should come as no surprise as his 4.6 rpg mark was second among ACC guards last season.

He tied his career high with a team-leading nine caroms against Delaware.

In the last 30 years, Cornel Parker is the only Cavalier perimeter player to average more than five rebounds per game in a season. A 6-7 swingman, Parker averaged 6.9 boards per game in 1992-93.

Nolan Paces Cavaliers in Early Going
Senior forward Norman Nolan has been Virginia's primary inside scorer for the last three years.

He led the team in scoring on eight occasions last season, the third-best mark on the team.

So far this season he's displaying a strong inside game on both ends of the court, leading the team in rebounding and scoring three times each.

He was a one-man wrecking crew for the Cavaliers in their loss to Richmond in the season opener on November 16. He scored a career-high 31 points, including one stretch where he scored 19 consecutive points for the Cavaliers. He also recorded his 11th career "double double" by pulling down a game-high 11 rebounds.

He turned in his second consecutive "double double" against William & Mary, scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.

He posted his third consecutive "double double" against George Mason with 13 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.

Saddled with early foul trouble against Delaware, Nolan scored 14 points and grabbed four rebounds in only 18 minutes of play. He scored two important baskets in the closing minutes to help the Cavaliers hold off the homestanding Blue Hens.

He returned to the "double double" column with a game-high 17 points and 10 rebounds to help the Cavaliers down Appalachian State 62-54 in their most recent contest.

Nolan is averaging 18.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per game this season, while shooting 55.9 percent from the field.

Dersch Playing Lots of Minutes
Willie Dersch came to Virginia a year ago as one of the nation's top recruits. With the Cavaliers featuring several experienced players at his position, he didn't get a lot of playing time last season, averaging 13.4 minutes per game in his 28 appearances.

This season things have changed dramatically for the 6-5 swingman from Floral Park, N.Y. He made the first start of his career in the season opener against Richmond and played a fine game.

He scored nine points, grabbed six rebounds and led the team with five assists in 47 minutes of play.

Dersch tied Chezley Watson for game-high honors with four assists in UVa's win over William & Mary in the season's second game. Dersch also added eight points and six rebounds in 31 minutes of action.

He didn't score against George Mason, but contributed four assists and three rebounds in the game. His excellent work on the defensive end of the floor helped hold the Patriots to 30.9 percent shooting.

Dersch is averaging only 5.0 points per game, but leads the team with 20 assists.

He has played 191 of a possible 210 minutes so far this season.


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A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.

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