March 5, 1998
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) - The atmosphere in Duke's locker room suggested anything but another victory for the top-ranked Blue Devils.
All around the crowded, steamy quarters, players shook their heads, spoke in hushed tones and haltingly tried to explain their struggles Thursday night against the worst team in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"It's not acceptable for our team to play that way," Roshown McLeod said after Duke was held to 38 percent shooting and was battled to a 38-38 standoff on the boards by a smaller, slower Virginia team.
Overcoming a first half in which they missed 16 of their last 19 field-goal attempts and shot 35 percent, the Blue Devils overpowered Virginia in the second half for a 63-41 victory in the opening round of the conference tournament.
"We're fortunate to have another opportunity to come back and play, because this is a one-and-done time of year," said McLeod, who missed 11 of his 16 field-goal attempts, but still led the Blue Devils with 14 points.
Duke (28-2) forced turnovers on seven of Virginia's first eight possessions in the second half and converted them into eight points, fueling an 11-0 run that sent the Blue Devils into Saturday's semifinals.
"They're a team with a lot of weapons, and they keep coming in waves. It took its toll on us," said Norman Nolan, who led Virginia with 13 points and 15 rebounds.
Duke came into the tournament after winning an ACC-record 15 games in the regular season. This year marks the fifth time in the 1990s the Blue Devils entered the tournament as the top seed, but they have just one title to show for it.
"This was one of those nights when your big guns just struggled and everybody else had to try to step up and help out," said Shane Battier, who had nine points, six rebounds and two of Duke's nine steals. "We've got plenty to think about for Saturday."
Duke scored 14 of its 34 points in the second half off turnovers and limited Virginia to its lowest point total in the school's 71-game ACC tournament history.
"I guess you could say this is, I don't know, maybe a fitting end to a tough year," coach Jeff Jones said after his Cavaliers turned it over 21 times and shot 34 percent. "It makes it tough to beat a team like Duke when you struggle so much offensively."
Virginia (11-19) finished with its most losses since the 1962-63 Cavaliers went 5-20. The Cavaliers also had the misfortune of becoming the first team in NCAA history to lose five games in one season to a No. 1 team. Virginia went 0-3 against Duke and lost both games to North Carolina when the Tar Heels were the nation's top-ranked team.
Virginia senior Curtis Staples, who concluded his career as the most prolific 3-point shooter in NCAA history, took 13 shots from beyond the arc and made three in what may have been the final game for Jones. There has been growing speculation in recent weeks that Virginia may replace Jones, who is 146-104 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 to do some things to get the direction of the program turned around. And that's something 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. But they made just one field goal in the final six minutes, helping Virginia cut its 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 and Virginia's 11th loss in 12 games.
Scoring their first eight points off Virginia turnovers, the Blue Devils built a 40-24 lead before the Cavaliers answered. A short jumper by Nolan cut Virginia'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 of the way. The final margin represented Duke's largest lead.
Virginia's lowest scoring output in the tournament before Thursday night was
45 in a loss to North Carolina in the 1982 championship game.
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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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