Thursday was a big night for the Virginia Cavaliers as they were looking for their first win at Duke since 1995, and a victory over the sixth-ranked Blue Devils would raise their ceiling even higher.
Despite shooting 0-for-11 from three in the second half Tony Bennett's team still had two chances to send the game into overtime, but neither fell and the Blue Devils hung on to win 61-58. On a night that Duke shot 5-for-20 from three against the ACC's best when it comes to defending the bonus shot the Blue Devils needed a group effort to move their home win streak to 44 games.
Mason Plumlee scored 12 points to lead four players in double figures, and he could have scored more if not for a 2-for-10 outing at the foul line. Duke finished the game with a field goal percentage of 52.2%, as making 73.0% of their two-point attempts made up for the poor perimeter shooting. With their outside shots not falling Duke needed to clamp down on defense, and they did just that as two Virginia starters (Jontel Evans and Sammy Zeglinski) failed to score a single point.
"I also thought it was by far the best defensive game that Andre Dawkins has ever played," said Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski of his junior guard's defensive contribution. "Everyone talks about his shooting, but he really played well defensively. And we did a good job against Zeglinski and Harris...we were able to at least limit Harris and we were fortunate we shut down Zeglinski."
The one player Duke didn't have an answer for was forward Mike Scott, who scored a game-high 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a losing effort. Virginia had the pace they preferred, playing a 59-possession game on the road against an opponent that averages 70 possessions/game, and they did a good job of limiting the open looks for Duke's prolific shooters.
That's definitely something the Cavaliers can build on in the days leading up to their game at Georgia Tech next Thursday. Coach Bennett and his team certainly shouldn't be in the business of claiming moral victories but if anything Virginia showed that, in addition to their own growth as a program, there's a sizeable gap between the top three and the rest of the ACC.
"Tonight, it could have been the same situation, and I thought they got a little tougher and stingier defensively," said Bennett when asked to compare this season's meeting to last year's (76-60 Duke win). "That got us back on track. Then we made some baskets. That is why we at least had some chances at the end to send it into overtime."
Other Notable Happenings
1. Wisconsin jumps out to a big
lead and picks up a much-needed win at Purdue.
Slow starts had been a problem in recent games for Bo Ryan's team leading up to their game in West Lafayette, and with a 1-3 record in Big Ten play Wisconsin needed to figure out a solution. Instead of the usual methodical pace the Badgers found (and made) quick looks from beyond the arc in their swing offense to take control of the game, scoring 22 of the first 26 points before holding on in the second half to win 67-62. Five players reached double figures for the Badgers but the biggest surprise had to be senior Mike Bruesewitz, a glue guy who knocked down all four of this three-point attempts and scored 12 points.
Terone Johnson led Purdue with 16 points off the bench and Robbie Hummel added 13, but with Lewis Jackson not 100% physically and other options struggling from the field the Boilermakers didn't have enough to overcome the hole they dug for themselves early. As a team Purdue made just 35.1% of their two-point shots, a far cry from their mark for the season (49.4%), and that's a testament to Wisconsin's defense and not just Purdue's inability to make shots. In order to get back on track Wisconsin looked for scoring opportunities earlier in their sets to start the game, and that proved to be the difference.
"We gave them respect and talked about not giving them 'rhythm shots' and I think they got too many 'rhythm shots' and got their head up early," remarked Purdue head coach Matt Painter after the game.
2. Saint Mary's whips Gonzaga to
go 2-0 against the other WCC contenders at home.
Saint Mary's early WCC schedule can be summed up by using the title of Jay-Z's "Blueprint 2" album. "The Gift" was getting to host both BYU and Gonzaga early in league play. The key for Randy Bennett's team is to make sure that having to play both teams on the road in the second half of the season season doesn't turn out to be "The Curse". The Gaels controlled the Bulldogs in the second half on Thursday night, pushing their lead out to as many as 24 after leading 37-32 just over a minute into the half. Saint Mary's won 83-62 despite forward Rob Jones not scoring until 1:39 remaining in the game, but he made up for the lack of scoring by grabbing 11 rebounds and racking up eight assists.
A big reason why Saint Mary's was able to pull away in spite of Jones' lack of scoring was the play of forward Brad Waldow, who posted his first career double-double with 17 points and ten rebounds. And with Gonzaga's Robert Sacre making just one of seven shots and scoring four points, the visitors from Spokane couldn't take advantage. Matthew Dellavedova, who like Seton Hall's Jordan Theodore continues to make the Cousy Award selection committee look siily for leaving him off the finalists list, scored a game-high 26 points and dished out six assists while Stephen Holt added 15 and six assists. But essentially the Gaels held serve in the three-team race for the WCC crown with the two home wins. Whether or not Saint Mary's can take this show on the road will determine whether or not they end up on top at the end of the season.
3. Drexel ends George Mason's
18-game regular season conference win streak.
After wins over Old Dominion and Georgia State, Paul Hewitt's Patriots entered Thursday's matchup with Drexel full of confidence and rightfully so as George Mason had won 18 straight regular season CAA games. But thanks in large part to a freshman who had made five of his last fifteen field goals, the Dragons snapped Mason's streak and forced a three-way tie for first place in the CAA. Damion Lee made eight of his fourteen shots and scored a game-high 21 points (16 in the second half), picking up the slack for Drexel as fellow starters Frantz Massenat (4-18 FG, 12 points) and Derrick Thomas (2-9 FG, eight points) struggled from the field.
What also helped Drexel was their effort on the defensive end, as they harassed Ryan Pearson and Vertail Vaughns into a combined 2-for-16 night from the field. What also didn't help George Mason were their turnovers, more specifically Drexel's ability to take advantage of the Patriots' miscues. George Mason turned the ball over just ten times (Drexel finished with nine turnovers), but the Dragons scored 16 points off of those turnovers compared to six for the visitors. Drexel also won the battle on the boards (41-30), grabbing 18 offensive rebounds and while they didn't cash those in at a great clip (11 second-chance points) those extra shots can make the difference when shooting just 36.2%. Lee's second half will stick out however and rightfully so, as his outburst not only tightened things up at the top of the CAA but kept Drexel in the discussion.
1. Virginia wasn't the only team to show well on the road in defeat. Colorado did the same, and their 57-50 loss at California was closer than the final margin would indicate. Tad Boyle's team leads the Pac-12 in scoring defense, and Carlon Brown has done a much better job of picking his spots over the last month. And in forward Andre Roberson, who leads the conference in rebounding and accounted for 11 points and 14 rebounds on Thursday, Colorado's got one of the nation's most underrated players.
2. Minnesota picked up their first Big Ten win of the season at Indiana of all places, beating the Hoosiers 77-74. Austin Hollins led the Golden Gophers with 18 points, and they did just enough late to hold off an Indiana team that refused to quit. Indiana's problem: they made just four of eighteen shots from three on the night, a far cry from their percentage for the season (45.9%).
3. Saturday's showdown in the Big Sky will feature teams undefeated in league play as Montana (4-0) and Weber State (5-0) took care of business against Northern Arizona and Montana State respectively. Scott Bamforth scored 20 points in Weber State's 63-49 win over Montana State while Kareem Jamar led three Montana starters in double figures with 15 points (and seven rebounds) in the Grizzlies' 78-53 win at NAU.
4. It was a struggle but Oral Roberts found a way to remain undefeated in Summit League play, moving to 7-0 with a 71-70 double overtime win at Western Illinois. Dominique Morrison played all 50 minutes and scored a game-high 27 points and Steven Roundtree added 12 off the bench for the Golden Eagles.
5. UNC Asheville came back from a 12-point halftime deficit at Campbell to beat the Camels 89-82 and move to 6-0 in the Big South. Jeremy Atkinson was the catalyst as he scored 19 of his 22 points in the second half. Matt Dickey chipped in with 19 points and ten rebounds, J.P. Primm scored 18 and sixth man Jaron Lane added 13 off the bench.
6. The comeback of the day, and possibly of the season to date, happened in New Rochelle as Manhattan stormed back from 17 down with less than eight minutes remaining to beat rival Iona 75-72. Emmy Andujar's turnaround three as time expired was the difference, but don't discount the effort of Rhamel Brown (17 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks) either. Steve Masiello's surprising Jaspers are now just a game out of first place in the MAAC, and this result also makes Friday's game between Loyola (MD) and Fairfield even more important.
7. Quinnipiac picked up a much-needed win as they beat Robert Morris in Moon Township 78-76 to move to 2-3 in the NEC. With just the top eight teams qualifying for the conference tournament Tom Moore's team needed a win, and thanks to 22 points from James Johnson and 18 from Dave Johnson (no relation) the mission was accomplished.
8. Yes things got heated during overtime in Arizona's 91-83 win over Oregon State, with OSU's Joe Burton and Arizona's Kyryl Natyazhko being ejected for leaving their respective bench areas. But no punches were thrown during an interaction that featured more jawing than anything else thanks to quick-acting coaches and officials. Instead the focus should be on the fact that Craig Robinson's team dropped to 1-4 in conference play, and anything less than a split of the weekend (they visit Arizona State on Saturday) would be the end of the Beavers' title hopes despite the wide-open nature of the conference.
Three Notable Performances
1. G Phil Martin (UC Riverside)
Long Beach State has sole possession of first place in the Big West and Martin's a big reason why. Martin scored 33 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the Highlanders' 79-70 overtime win over UCSB.
2. C Vander Joaquim (Hawaii)
23 points (9-11 FG), 16 rebounds and three blocked shots in the Warriors' 74-68 overtime win at Fresno State.
3. C John Fraley (Austin Peay)
25 points (10-12 FG) and 12 rebounds in the Governors' 80-65 win over Eastern Kentucky.