WASHINGTON -- The seats at the MCI Center were nearly empty and the loud boos directed at J.J. Redick had calmed. By 11:30 p.m. fans were tired after watching an upset and another near upset earlier in the day, and Virginia was out of gas.
Duke advanced 76-64 despite a fight from the Cavaliers (14-15) that lasted until the midway point of the second half. The Blue Devils (23-5) will play N.C. State in the semifinals less than 17 hours after walking off the court Friday.
Redick took 17 shots and connected on just four, but once again Lee Melchionni picked up the slack. Duke made up for its poor shooting by nearly doubling-up Virginia on the glass. The Blue Devils snatched 23 offensive rebounds to the Cavaliers' eight.
Knowing it had just hours to rest before playing in its eighth consecutive ACC Tournament semifinal, Duke slowed down its pace late after the team took control of the game with several aggressive drives and a Redick three from the corner.
"That is the way this tournament goes," said Shavlik Randolph, who stayed out of foul trouble and played 24 minutes. "We are well prepared with the type of season we have been having with all the injuries and sickness."
N.C. State moved on minutes before Duke took the court as Wake Forest guard Chris Paul sat on the bench just feet behind a stomping head coach Skip Prosser, who clearly missed his star guard. With the Demon Deacons' loss, Duke may have moved a step closer to securing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which begins Thursday.
Georgia Tech and North Carolina, which came back in the final minutes to avoid an upset at the hands of Clemson, will play at 1 p.m. Saturday followed by the Duke-N.C. State game at 4 p.m. Duke won its only regular-season matchup with the Wolfpack, 86-74, Jan. 13 in Raleigh.
"When we played them the first time, they were going through some injuries and illnesses and they weren't a full team," Redick said of N.C. State. "Right now they are playing as hungry as any team in the conference. They have been playing great basketball the last few weeks, because they have been playing with a sense of urgency."
With both Daniel Ewing and Shelden Williams on the bench with two fouls and Redick hitting the front of the rim more often than the net, Melchionni and freshman David McClure combined for 21 of the teams 40 first-half points. McClure gave head coach Mike Krzyzewski energy off the bench and allowed most of Duke's starters to log fewer minutes than they typically play in ACC games.
"We just had to get used to the rims a little bit," Redick said. "We didn't shoot well in the first half. With the exception of Lee, we couldn't get in any flow offensively, but we made enough stops to give ourselves a working margin, and then we just did a great job on the boards."
The Blue Devils went on a 24-5 run to close out the first half with Melchionni leading the way, but N.C. State closed the gap to two in the second half before Duke made another spurt.
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"Melchionni did a good job with some open threes. He really killed us," said Virginia head coach Pete Gillen, who may have coached his final game as the head of the Cavaliers' program.
Freshman guard Sean Singletary led the way with 16 points for a significantly undersized Virginia team. Gillen said his team was tired after upsetting Florida State Thursday and, further putting Virginia at a size disadvantage, big man Elton Brown was severely dehydrated despite receiving intravenous fluids prior to the game.
"It's disappointing," Gillen said. "We lost so we have no chance to go to any type of postseason. We lost today but we gave it all we could. We didn't have a whole lot of energy left in the tank at the end of the game to try to make another comeback. Everybody fought until the end of the game so we can keep our heads up about that. Everybody left it out there."