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It's the End of the Road for Cavaliers

Loss to Duke May Be Gillen's Last Game as Virginia's Coach: Duke 76, Virginia 64

By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 12, 2005; Page D01

If this was the end for Pete Gillen as coach at Virginia, there was little suspense or drama in the final moments, no last-second shot to remain in his psyche for years. After providing the ACC tournament's most thrilling first-round performance Thursday, Virginia played valiantly late last night but concluded its season nonetheless.

Duke beat 11th-seeded Virginia, 76-64, in the quarterfinals at MCI Center, most likely signaling the end to Gillen's seven-year tenure at Virginia. Gillen's job security has been the subject of mounting scrutiny after his team finished with a losing conference record for the fourth straight season.

Duke's Shelden Williams charts his course, moving between Virginia's Gary Forbes (23) and Tunji Soroye, as he takes the ball to the basket. (Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)

Gillen afterward declined to talk about his future, saying that it will be determined next week.

"The University of Virginia deserves better than 14-15 [record] that we gave them this year," he said. "And I take the blame for that, not the players."

Third-seeded Duke, winner of five of the past six ACC tournaments, advanced to today's semifinals, where the Blue Devils (23-5) will play seventh-seeded North Carolina State. Duke continued its mastery of the event -- the Blue Devils are 20-2 in the conference tournament since 1998 -- despite lacking any sort of depth this season.

Last night's game unfolded the way Virginia wanted. J.J. Redick, widely considered the best pure shooter in the country, missed 11 of his first 12 shots. Two of Duke's best players, Daniel Ewing and Shelden Williams, picked up two fouls in the first half. And the Blue Devils shot poorly much of the game, including 34.1 percent in the first half.

But the Cavaliers were physically worn down from their dramatic 66-65 comeback victory over Miami on Thursday.

"We had nothing left," Gillen said. "Devin [Smith] couldn't run. Devin was in cement. J.R. [Reynolds] was in cement. We were beaten up from the night before."

When Virginia cut the deficit to two with 15 minutes remaining, Gillen stepped toward the crowd during a timeout, waving his hands and imploring fans to stand behind his team for one final run.

Thursday night's victory concluded with Gillen performing a little jig after the buzzer sounded. There was no such celebratory gesture last night.

When Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski was asked his feelings about possibly coaching the final time against Gillen in the ACC, he said: "I hope not. I have the utmost respect for Pete. He's a veteran coach. It's not like he's had a losing record at Virginia."

Early in the second half last night, Smith and Reynolds made three-pointers to help Virginia close the gap to 43-41. The Cavaliers appeared on the verge of challenging Duke to the game's final moments.

A crushing play occurred with just more than six minutes remaining, when Williams scored a layup as the shot clock approached zero. The basket put the Blue Devils up 12; Virginia would not threaten again.

Duke won the game by dominating Virginia 54-30 in rebounding. Six Blue Devils grabbed at least five rebounds. Twice Duke rallied from seven-point first-half deficits. Toward the end of the half, Duke was in the lead, and comfortably, in spite of everything.

"It wasn't a great shooting night," Krzyzewski said, "but a lot of that had to do with Virginia. They really pressured our perimeter players."

But when Duke's Lee Melchionni made the third of his four first-half three-pointers, Duke extended its lead to 35-28. Melchionni, who finished with 16 points, swished his fourth just before time expired in the first half, lifting Duke to a 40-28 halftime advantage.

Before heading to the locker room, Gillen glanced at the score, apparently trying to grasp how the deficit had swelled so quickly. He turned, bowed his head and continued through the tunnel.

It was a disappointing ending to a season that began with an 8-1 record and optimism about reaching the NCAA tournament. Then three-year starter Jason Clark was ruled academically ineligible, and an injury sidelined Smith for a portion of the season.

"You don't understand the magnitude of those injuries if you don't have someone to take their place," Krzyzewski said. "Obviously, they are probably going to win 20 games [without the setbacks], they are going to be in the NCAAs and that point is moot."

Following the N.C. State-Wake Forest quarterfinal earlier in the evening, Gillen lurked near the tunnel leading to the court. "One more, Pete!" one fan hollered, "one more!"

Gillen didn't answer.

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