For the first 36 minutes, the women's basketball team played Virginia, one of the top-10 teams in the nation, to a standstill.
In the last four minutes, though, Virginia showed why it is the ninth-ranked team in the nation. The Cavaliers, who only led by five points with four minutes to go, pulled away for a 73-60 victory over the Blue Devils at University Hall in Charlottesville, Va.
The victory improved the Cavaliers' record to 20-2 and 12-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Duke dropped to 15-7, 6-6 in the ACC.
Duke may have lost the game but it gained something else in the process.
"We gained some respect from [Virginia]," said sophomore Alison Day. "I thought we had a lot of improvement since the last time we played them. In the first game they just embarrassed us. This time it was their experience that helped them pull away in the end."
Virginia won the first meeting between these two squads with an 87-66 blowout at Cameron Indoor Stadium. This time in Charlottesville, the Blue Devils came out more determined and were able to play a much closer game.
After cutting Virginia's lead to five points with four minutes to play, it looked as if Duke might be able to gain a win along with some respect. As the clock wound down, however, Virginia showed why it has not lost in the ACC so far this season.
The Cavaliers sank 8-of-9 free throws in the second half to help extend their home winning streak to 38 games.
"We ran our offense well and played good defense," junior Kristina Meiman said. "If a few tips went our way, or a couple of rolls fell for us, I think we could have won it."
While Duke could not get the ball to drop in during the last few minutes, Meiman seemed to be having little difficulty with her shots. Coming off the bench, Meiman scored 18 points in just 16 minutes of play.
She was key in keeping Duke close, shooting 4-of-4 from the free throw line and 4-of-7 from behind the three-point arc.
"People did a great job setting screens and giving me the ball for the open shots," Meiman said.
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While Meiman took care of the outside game, Day and junior Carey Kauffman provided the inside help. Day had eight points and 10 rebounds, while Kauffman added 14 points and 12 rebounds, six on offensive end.
"You can always count on Carey to get some boards," Day said. "We worked pretty well together underneath the basket. Our 3-2 zone had been a spot of trouble for the post so far this year, but we really improved on that in this game."
Duke's defense showed improvement from previous game. But late in the game, instead of continuing to attack Virginia, Duke backed up and the Cavaliers pulled away.
"At the end of the game they continued to go to the basket," Meiman said. "We sat back a little bit, and they took advantage by hitting some key shots and making some easy breakaways."
Virginia was the stronger team at the end of the game despite the fact that the Cavaliers relied mostly on the contributions of only six players. Ten Duke players saw playing time, with freshman Kira Orr once again providing quality play off the bench action. Orr added six points and two assists in 23 minutes of play.
Virginia did not need much bench help, because its starting five got the job done. Cavalier stars Wendy Palmer and Tora Suber each had 21 points, and UVa outrebounded Duke 38-27.
Still, Duke came away with a good feeling after the game. The Blue Devils know they can compete with the top teams in the conference, and they have confidence going into the season's last few games and the ACC Tournament.
"I thought we played well," said head coach Gail Goestenkors. "The first game they just dominated us, this game was down to the wire. We really improved since last time."
Duke gets a chance to see how much it has improved when it faces Maryland at home Thursday night.