Gutty Virginia comeback falls short in 69-65 loss at Duke

Grant Halverson

The Virginia Cavaliers used an 11-0 run to take the lead at Duke with 38 seconds to play, but the Blue Devils prevailed 69-65 in a heartbreaker at Cameron Indoor.  Led by Rasheed Sulaimon's 21 points (including 4-5 three-point shooting), Duke controlled much of the game, and then held on late when his three-pointer bounced in with 19 seconds remaining to give the team a 67-65 lead.  UVA picked up its first ACC loss, falling to 12-5 on the year and 3-1 in ACC play, while Duke improved to 13-4 (2-2).

The Blue Devils got off to a quick 8-0 run and controlled the whole first half.  The Hoos had a front court advantage on paper, but they failed to take advantage, allowing far too many second chance points to a potent Blue Devil offense.  Virginia threatened to come back with an early second half push to cut the deficit to 3 points, but Duke used a quick 12-2 burst to extend the lead to 13 points with 8 minutes to play.

Then, despite never having a lead and trailing by as many as 13 points, UVA sprung to life in the game's final 5 minutes.  Trailing by 11 with 3:44 to play, Justin Anderson nailed a 3 from the top of the key, then climbed the ladder for an acrobatic tip-in of a missed shot while being fouled from behind.  A Joe Harris layup and a Malcom Brogdon 3 point play tied the game at 63.  The teams traded fouls, but Sulaimon missed a free throw while Brogdon converted both to give UVA the lead with 38 seconds to play.

However, Duke had time for one big possession. And, though the Wahoo defense forced a bad shot by Rodney Hood, the airball was gathered by Duke and kicked out to Sulaimon, whose three bounced high off the rim before somehow falling into the basket.


The Hoos had a chance for one last possession trailing 67-65, but a poorly executed pass by Akil Mitchell was knocked away, and Joe Harris's acrobatic short-range jumper from the scrum bounced off the backboard.  Amile Jefferson made both free-throws to ice the game.

The Wahoos lost despite a gutty effort on the road; the team withstood some serious Duke runs, punched back hard late in the game, and were just a VERY lucky bounce away from a statement win.  And though UVA's effort cannot be questioned, they did not play their best game for the first 35 minutes.  The Hoos struggled to finish at the rim, as Mike Tobey, Akil Mitchell, and Anthony Gill combined to shoot 5 of 18 from the field against a vulnerable Duke interior defense.  The Hoos eventually won the rebounding battle, grabbing 72% of Duke's misses compared to Duke's 64% DReb%, but the Blue Devils used a string of second chance points as part of their early run.

Malcom Brogdon led the way for the Hoos, scoring 17 points on 6 of 13 shooting, and grabbing 5 rebounds, including a big defensive board during UVA's late run.  After sinking all 5 of his free-throws, Brogdon is shooting 91% from the line.  Joe Harris shot 5 of 12 for 15 points, and played a strong, aggressive second half.

While Akil Mitchell did an absolutely outstanding job shutting down Jabari Parker, who finished with 8 points on 3 of 11 shooting, he was frustrated late, missing 4 of the 5 free-throws he took and picking up the game-ending turnover on a failed set play.  When he looked to get especially emotional and intense early in the second half, he failed to focus his energy.  Though Akil played with heart as always, he didn't have his best game.

Late-game dramatics aside, the game ends as a simple notch in the "L" column for UVA.  While the heartbreaking finish obviously hurts, there's ultimately no shame in losing a close game at Cameron Indoor; the real loss is the missed opportunity for a huge road win.

UVA gets a long week off before starting a three-game homestand against FSU, North Carolina, and Virginia Tech.  Those games won't be easy, as FSU will want revenge from the teams' first matchup in Tallhassee, North Carolina will be desperate to climb out of an 0-3 hole, and Virginia Tech....well...I'm sure they'll try to win also.  The rematch with the Seminoles tips off Saturday at noon and will be televised by RSN and ESPN3.

Wanna feel better after the game? Watch Justin Anderson's post-game interview:

"I'd do anything for my team. I'd do anything for my coaching staff. I'd do anything for Virginia."

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