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
"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
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
"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
"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.