According to Jim Spanarkel, Duke "is just now starting to click," and judging from the way the Blue Devils manhandled Virginia, 84-66, tonight at University Hall, that is bad news for the rest of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Duke has had its troubles at times this season, but that all looked like water under the bridge tonight as Coach Bill Foster's team put together what he called its best team performance of the season.
"We've had some better individual performances, but as a team, this was the best we've played," he said.
Mike Gminski, scoring practically at will, made 10 of 15 shots and finished with 24 points and freshman Vince Taylor, playing for an injured Kenny Dennard, came up with a fine all-around performance to lead the Blue Devils to their second straight ACC victory on the road in five days. Their 4-1 league record puts them in second place in the conference, a half game behind North Carolina.
Virginia fell to 3-2 in the ACC.
Duke shot 70 percent from the field in the first half and 62 percent for the game, and outrebounded the sluggish Cavaliers, 39-28.
It was a close contest for most of the first half and Virginia took a 24-21 lead on a Bobby Stokes basket with 5:19 left in the period.
The rest of the game turned out to be a forum for Duke.
The Blue Devils went on a 14-3 scoring tear over the next 3 1/2 minutes.As an indication of Duke's strength, all five players on the floor during that run scored at least two points, while Jeff Lamp was the only Cavalier who was able to score.
Duke started the second half by making 10 of its first 15 shots and eventually led by as many as 24 points.
Gminski, who had 14 of his points in the first half, was almost unstoppable, and with his effectiveness, everything else Duke tried fell into place.
Virginia tried to play a man-to-man defense but it doesn't have a defender capable of containing Gminski. Steve Castellan accrued two fouls in two minutes and Otis Fulton was just too slow.
Gminski would receive a pass inside and then turn and shoot. He has now scored 55 points in his last two games.
"I'm just getting into the flow of the offense," the 6-foot-11 center said. "We're moving a lot better than we were, too. In the past, we'd get the ball into me and then just stand still and the defense would collapse inside. Lately, we've been moving so well that they can't collapse on me."
Virginia Coach Terry Holland said he probably should have tried a zone defense. He admitted that Gminski was the big Duke weapon tonight, but added, "They have the kind of team that you can't sacrifice your defense against just to stop Gminski."
Dennard pulled a hamstring muscle in practice Tuesday and could play only two minutes tonight before limping to the bench.
That opened the door for Taylor, the 6-5 freshman smoothie.
Normally a guard, but playing small forward for Dennard, Taylor made five of five shots from the field and had four rebounds and three assists. He had one spectacular play in which he grabbed an offensive rebound on the right side of the basket, came down on the left side and powered back up in traffic to score as he was fouled.
Virginia's strength is in the outside shooting of Lamp and Lee Raker. Lamp scored 23 points, but had to work extremely hard for them tonight and Rakar was subpar because of a pulled stomach muscle.
Raker managed to score 14 points, but had only two in the second half and didn't play the final 14 minutes of the game.
Since Lamp was the only real scoring threat, Duke made life miserable for him. He made 10 of 20 shots from the field, but had four shots blocked and never had an uncontested shot.