Virginia's Tom Sheehey and Duke's Dan Meagher fought skirmish after skirmish here tonight. A push here and a shove there, followed by a basket here and a basket there. In the end, Meagher won the scoring battle, 17-16, Sheehey was ejected and the Blue Devils came away with a 78-63 victory in Cameron Indoor Stadium. It was the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams.
The 17 points was Meagher's highest output of the season. He sank seven of eight from the field and three of five from the foul line.
"Meagher has started every game for us for the past two years and has had some good games, but this was as good as he's played, especially offensively," said Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Blue Devils guard Johnny Dawkins, shooting only 39 percent from the field going into tonight's game, came out of his slump. He got 23 points on 10 of 16 shots.
Jim Miller led the Cavaliers (4-3) with 17 points, but incurred a badly sprained left ankle in the game's final minute. He broke his left foot two years ago. His status is uncertain.
Meagher got 10 points in the first 10 minutes, then committed two fouls, one over Miller's back, the other when he pushed Sheehey.
"Sheehey's tough, but they're all strong," Meagher said. "But I'm not intimidated. I feel pretty content."
"The ACC is a very tough, very physical league, there's no doubt about that," said Virginia Coach Terry Holland. "We'll have to learn to play just as toughly."
With Duke (5-0) ahead, 22-21, with 7:58 left in the first half, center Jay Bilas sandwiched two short jumpers around Mark Alarie's 16-footer to make the lead seven points.
Two baskets by Dawkins put Duke up by 11 and the fourth-ranked Blue Devils took a 39-30 lead into halftime.
Duke scored the first six points of the second half and appeared ready to blow out the Cavaliers -- playing without center Olden Polynice, who left the team indefinitely following controversy surrounding accusations that he violated the school's honor code by turning in another student's paper. But, bolstered by the play of three freshmen -- Darrick Simms, Mel Kennedy and John Johnson -- Virginia came back to 47-38.
Trailing, 62-53, Sheehey made a short jumper, Johnson hit a layup on a beautiful feed from Simms and Sheehey scored again to bring Virginia within three.
Then Krzyzewski borrowed a tactic from an ACC rival, North Carolina Coach Dean Smith, by going into a slowdown.
With one second left on the 45-second shot clock, Tommy Amaker hit a 20-footer. Dawkins made two free throws and an 18-footer, then Amaker and Sheehey got two each as Duke extended its lead to 70-63.