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Duke controls tempo from start to finish

There wasn't much mystery to the men's basketball team's 103-59 win over Virginia Saturday afternoon.

No. 1 Duke beat Virginia because the Blue Devils are a far superior team with far superior talent.

Talent alone, though, wasn't enough to record such a large margin of victory.

The Blue Devils secured their biggest Atlantic Coast Conference win in 32 years because they dictated the tempo and forced the Cavaliers to play a style of basketball to which they are unaccustomed.

Virginia entered Saturday averaging just under 65 points in its first five games. The Cavs had held their previous opponents to 57 points per game and 32-percent shooting from the field. Compare that with Duke's 93-point average and 51-percent shooting and something had to give.

Virginia gave, and gave often. The Cavaliers scored right around their average.

So did the Blue Devils.

From the opening possession when Trajan Langdon stole the ball from Donald Hand until the final buzzer sounded, Duke dragged the Cavaliers into an up-tempo contest by picking up the pressure on defense early and taking quick shots in the halfcourt set.

In the early '90s, Nolan Richardson called such play "40 Minutes of Hell." That's just what Virginia faced for the duration in Cameron Saturday.

"We knew coming in that we couldn't match Duke basket for basket," Virginia coach Jeff Jones said. "We needed to take some time and make it a shorter game. We weren't good enough to do that.

"Their defensive pressure was very good, and there's no letup when guys come off the bench. Defensively, offensively-it's their own version of 40 minutes of hell."

In reality, the Blue Devils' defensive pressure was the same as it's been all season. Steve Wojciechowski and company forced 22 Virginia turnovers and stole the ball 14 times in the first half, leading to 25 points off turnovers and a 28-point halftime lead.

The Cavaliers shot 58 percent in the first half, but more importantly, Duke made more shots than Virginia attempted. Because Virginia tried to slow its possessions down, it had fewer chances. When they tried to speed things up, the Cavaliers, with two freshmen point guards, often gave the ball right back to the Blue Devils.

"The first minute or two, a couple of the plays that we made in transition, kind of quick plays that got a bucket or two, may have been the worst thing that could happen to us," Jones said. "Then we started playing faster than we wanted to and faster than we needed to. In a sense, we were playing into Duke's hands."

The Blue Devils certainly took advantage on the offensive end. Led by hot shooting from Langdon and Roshown McLeod, Duke often used little time on the shot clock, instead settling for the first shot it found, which often went in.

Langdon jumpstarted an 18-6 run that spread the Blue Devils' lead to 37-16 by pulling up for a 23-foot three-pointer from out top. The junior added three more baskets early in the shot clock during the run, and Mike Chappell had two breakaway dunks off full-court feeds from McLeod.

"We really came out and tried to do the things we were practicing," Chappell said. "Instead of catering to the other team, we want to play our game on offense and make them come after us."

Although Duke executed its offense early in many of its possessions, the Blue Devils avoided looking like a hurried team forcing the issue. They turned the ball over just eight times and shot nearly 51 percent for the game.

Duke still attempted 24 threes but, led by Langdon's 16 points inside the arc, the Blue Devils drove to the basket more and moved inside the perimeter.

"I think that's just the way it came," Langdon said. "I think our pressure wore them down a little. We just try to come out and play our best basketball for 40 minutes. We're not concerned about the margin."

It's likely the Blue Devils aren't going to have a margin this big in a conference game the rest of the year. After all, Duke hadn't won in the ACC by this much since it beat Virginia 136-72 in 1965.

But the Blue Devils served notice that they're a difficult team to keep up with when they dictate the pace of the game. Had the Cavs slowed the tempo and kept the score in the sixties, they would've stayed closer.

Better teams force the weaker schools into their style of play, and Duke turned that into a rout Saturday.

"If we can dictate the tempo, then we take control of the game," McLeod said. "We want to control offensively and defensively. If we attack and play like we want to, 10 times out of 10 we're going to win the game."


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