DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 12: Miles Plumlee #21 of the Duke Blue Devils takes a rebound away from Mike Scott #23 of the Virginia Cavaliers (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
This game had just about all of the build up one could ask for. Nationwide coverage on ESPN. Writers saying this is Virginia's best shot to win at Cameron Indoor in decades. An article about the National POY award with hundreds of comments about Mike Scott.
Mike Scott lived up to the billing, scoring 23 points and grabbing nine rebounds. He had 16 of those points in the first half, prompting one TV commentator to say it was the Mike Scott show. During the game, basketball super-stat-man Ken Pomeroy tweeted that Scott scoring 16 points in a half is like a player on a normal team scoring 39 in a half. You can bet there'll be more articles about Scott in national publications in the coming weeks.
The game was also about as entertaining as ESPN could have hoped, this side of going to overtime. No team led by more than 9 points in the game and the final margin of three could have been erased by a last-second Wahoo bucket. There were also several very athletic dunks by both teams that are sure to make the highlight reels.
Unfortunately for Virginia, that last-second bucket was not to be. Mike Scott missed a three from the corner and Jontel Evans missed a follow up three as the buzzer sounded. In the end, Duke celebrated a close three-point win and Virginia has to settle for a moral victory, if you believe in those kinds of things.
Joe Harris added 14 points, 11 of which came in the second half, somewhat making up for the Blue Devils' solid defense of Scott after the intermission. He was the only other Cavalier to reach double figures.
Check back after the break for more breakdown of the game.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair that was led mostly by the Cavaliers. Virginia led by as many as six points, but some timely rebounding (helped, frankly, by some really bad misses by the Blue Devils) helped Duke draw it even at 24.
A Malcolm Brogdon three-pointer (originally credited by the announcers to Mike Scott) followed by an Akil Mitchell dunk (w/ great off-ball movement by Mitchell and a terrific pass by Mike Scott) and finally an actual Mike Scott three-pointer as the half half wound down gave Virginia a 32-28 halftime lead.
Outside of Mike Scott, no one really lit up the scoreboard for the Hoos in the first half. Brogdon had five and Joe Harris had three. Assane Sene, Mitchell, Paul Jesperson and Darion Atkins all had two. Jesperson's bucket came on a great backdoor cut that led to a powerful dunk by the freshman. He's really shown some flashes in his limited action so far this year.
Virginia shot 51.9% in the first half (14 for 27) while Duke shot 43.5% (10 of 23). Coming into the game, Duke was first in the ACC and eighth in the country with a 49.8 shooting percentage.
The second half started out with the patented Duke run. At the under-16 timeout, the Blue Devils had taken the lead 41-38 on a 13-6 run. At that point, both teams were shooting exactly 50% - 16 for 32. At the under-12 timeout, the lead had extended to 50-42. By the under-8, the Hoos had cut it slightly to 53-46. Same margin at the under-4: 59-53. Virginia was hanging around.
Unfortunately, hang around was all the Cavaliers could do. Rare Ryan Kelly free throw misses along with a Seth Curry miss provided Virginia with an opportunity. They somewhat took advantage of that opportunity, cutting the lead to three on a Joe Harris free throw and an impressive Akil Mitchell put-back dunk. But that's where the lead would stay.
To put the "Duke run" into perspective, consider this: Duke scored 33 points in the second half. Twenty-two of them came in the first ten minutes of the half. The second ten minutes? Just 11 points. Virginia's defense weathered the storm and came back to its normal pace for the final quarter of the game.
In the end it was the offense that came up short, not the defense. Sammy Zeglinski was 0-for-8 and Evans was 0-for-6. Scott and Harris combined for 37 points. The rest of the team? Twenty-one.
While there are certainly things for Virginia to work on before the next game, one can't help but be upbeat about this team. It's the first single-digit loss to the Blue Devils in the fourteen game losing streak (since The Stare). We went down to Cameron and played a very competitive game. Its still early in the season, but, as Dick Vitale said, this team is going to win a lot of games.
The Cavaliers(14-2, 1-1 ACC) have the weekend off before traveling to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech (8-8, 1-1 ACC) on Thursday at 8pm.