CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Ugly wins count just as much as pretty wins.
Last time the men's basketball team faced Virginia, it coasted to a record-setting 44-point win in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Saturday, the Cavaliers (10-10, 2-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) gave No. 1 Duke (18-1, 7-0 ACC) all it could handle, but the final result was the same, as the Blue Devils pulled out a 72-65 win at University Hall.
In a game that saw Duke shoot an abysmal 26 percent from behind the arc, it was actually a Trajan Langdon three-pointer with 2:57 remaining that sealed the win for the Blue Devils. With the shot clock down to just four seconds and Duke holding a tenuous 60-56 lead, Langdon knocked down a 22-foot three over the outstretched hand of Virginia's Curtis Staples. The shot gave Duke its biggest lead since an 18-10 advantage in the first half and broke the backs of a Cavalier squad that had battled the top-ranked Blue Devils tooth and nail the entire second half.
"That wasn't a coaching adjustment; that was a player adjustment," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "It was the biggest shot of the game. It not only went in, but it gave us a three-possession lead. If it's a two, we're up six; now we're up seven. It had been one or two possessions almost the whole half, so it was a huge shot."
And it wasn't a typical catch and release Langdon three-pointer as the junior co-captain worked himself open with a series of jab-steps and a dribble move.
"He just pivoted until he finally got his shot off," Staples said. "He does that probably better than any other shooting guard around."
Virginia hung around as Chris Carrawell hit just 1-of-2 free throws and Norman Nolan pulled UVa to within five with a three-point play. With the crowd back into the game and Virginia a defensive stop away from making the last minute interesting, Langdon came to the rescue again as he buried a 19-foot jumper with 1:33 to go.
"Trajan Langdon in particular, those two shots those were big time shots," Virginia coach Jeff Jones said. "He hadn't a great game up until that point. But he stepped up when his team needed it the most and made those shots. It really wasn't out of offense; it was him totally stepping up."
Duke knew it was in for a much different outing from the opening tip as Virginia raced out to a 5-0 lead. The Cavaliers actually held a 28-25 advantage late in the first half-the first time Duke had trailed so late in an ACC contest this year.
Staples sparked the strong first half for UVa as he connected on 4-of-5 three point attempts despite the fact that the Blue Devil defense was keyed to prevent the senior from getting open looks from long range. Langdon, Ricky Price and Will Avery took turns trying to stop Staples, but all three were either a step too slow or got eaten alive by the multitude of Cavalier screens.
Staples, who finished with 20 points, cooled off in the second half, largely due to the defense of Carrawell, and finished 6-of-12 from three-point land.
"I just tried to stay with him, I mean really with him," Carrawell said. "He gets a lot of picks, and you can really get lost in there. I just tried to create contact because if you're off him, he's a veteran player and he's going to run you off picks until you get lost. When I did get caught up, I yelled 'switch' and a guy like [Roshown McLeod] or Shane [Battier] could check him. I'd rather give up two points with Nolan than a three with Staples."
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While Staples' offense was trailing off in the second half, his teammates picked up the slack as Virginia refused to go away-never trailing by more than five points from the 12:44 mark until Langdon's three. Duke shot 55 percent from the floor in the second half as it abandoned an outside game that had let it down in the first half (38 percent), but Virginia managed to keep pace thanks largely to Nolan, who finished with 22 points.
"Every possession was a crucial possession where you couldn't afford a mistake," Nolan said. "It was just that type of game where you're waiting for someone to get that tough break, and Duke got it in the last five minutes and got the momentum."
While Nolan managed to top his 21 points per game average, he was held largely in check by the Blue Devil defense. Taymon Domzalski drew Nolan for most of his 23 minutes on the floor while McLeod and Battier checked Nolan the rest of the game, preventing the senior from dominating inside like he did in UVa's wins over N.C. State (35 of Virginia's 59 points) and Wake Forest (31 of 73).
Domzalski continued to excel on the boards as the junior picked up seven rebounds, including three on the offensive glass. McLeod stepped up as well, pulling down a game-high nine boards to go along with his team-high 16 points. The senior shot just 4-of-12 from the floor but delivered several times in the second half with the Duke lead down to just two points.
Most Duke fans were brimming with confidence as their team prepared to meet the same squad it had destroyed a little over a month ago, but Krzyzewski knew that this was not the same team that came to Cameron.
"We feel like we earned the win against a very good basketball team," Krzyzewski said. "I told my kids the last couple of days, you have not seen Virginia. The Virginia that was down at Duke, they weren't ready to play. They hadn't played the schedule yet. We came back after playing in Maui. We were just ahead of them at that time. This is the Virginia team that has brought success here during [Jones'] reign."
Jones similarly expected a different game from last month and was just as awed by Duke's seven-point win.
"I was very impressed when they had beaten us so soundly down in Durham, but I come away today just as impressed," Jones said. "They were on a visitor court, not playing their best game of the year, and I think our guys were ready to play. They hung in there."
Another difference between this game and last was the play of Cavalier point guard Donald Hand. The freshman played an astounding 38 minutes, dishing out nine assists while playing against Duke's Steve Wojciechowski. He scored just two points and also had six turnovers, but the performance was essential to Virginia's success.
"I think it was a heck of a job by Donald, considering I'm sure the 38 minutes is the most he's played on the collegiate level," Jones said. "There's some things that I can promise you we'll show him on the tape tomorrow. But I thought he really battled and he certainly was a better basketball player this time around."
Hand normally shares the point guard duties with fellow freshman Chezley Watson, but Watson missed the game after having his appendix removed Thursday afternoon.
"It helped that he wasn't looking over his shoulder the whole game to see when Chezley was checking in for him," Staples said. "He needs to learn to play that way all the time."