CHARLOTTESVILLE, JAN. 9 -- The centerless Virginia Cavaliers have enough problems playing against a 6-foot-10 guy who lumbers downcourt and roots himself to the low post until the ball finds his hands. So they certainly didn't have any answers today for Duke's playmaking, mobile big man, Danny Ferry.
The ninth-ranked Blue Devils rode Ferry's 29-point, nine-rebound performance and their trademark suffocating defense to a 77-59 victory in sold-out University Hall.
"I was getting a lot of uncontested shots," said Ferry, who made 10 of 16 field goal attempts, six of six free throws, tossed in five assists in 35 minutes and bettered his previous collegiate career scoring high by three points. "Virginia slumped off me early, and it got to the point where I thought I was going to make every shot."
The former DeMatha standout came pretty close, especially in the first half, when it mattered in this Atlantic Coast Conference opener. Ferry came into the game having hit 31 of 40 field goal attempts over Duke's last five games, and he picked up from there, converting seven of 10 for 18 points as the Blue Devils (9-1) took an 11-point lead that would not be threatened.
"He's so tough to stop," Virginia's John Johnson said. "You really can't put one of your big men on him, because he'll go around him, and you can't put a guard on him, because he'll post and shoot right over the top. He's the best elements of a big and small forward together."
Virginia's season-long shooting woes continued as the Cavaliers (7-7) went 32 percent from the field and 61 percent from the line. The Cavaliers could get no closer than nine in the second half, and Duke led by as many as 20 in beating Virginia a 10th straight time.
The Blue Devils used two runs keyed by relentless man-to-man pressure to open their lead. They erased an early six-point deficit with a 21-4 run, weathered an 11-0 Virginia counterpunch to 28-28, then had a 15-4 burst closing out the first half, capped by Ferry's five points -- two on free throws off a technical on Virginia Coach Terry Holland, three on a long shot.
Virginia sputtered and sometimes wilted against the pressure, but stayed close early because of Johnson, who scored 12 points in the first half. The Blue Devils rotated four defenders on him, and the wear and tear eventually showed on the senior point guard.
"I played as hard as I could as long as I could," Johnson said. "They just rotate a fresh guy on you, and eventually they get the advantage."
Once Johnson began to tire, the issue was sealed. Virginia's shots began coming from Richard Morgan (one for 11) and Mel Kennedy (four for 15), largely on forced pullup jumpers looking for foul calls they wouldn't get in the physical contest.
"I thought I should've gotten a couple calls, but that's no excuse," said Morgan, shooting 42 percent for the season. "I have no explanations for it. I just haven't felt comfortable letting it go for a while."
The 15-4 Duke surge after Virginia's 11-0 run "was the key," Duke guard Kevin Strickland said. "They came back, and we got them right back down. You only have so much in you, and I don't care who you are -- that just deflates you when you work hard but just can't get over the top." DUKE Min FG FT R A PF Ferry 35 10-16 6-6 9 5 1 29 King 33 1-3 1-4 4 1 2 3 Brickley 20 2-9 3-5 6 1 2 7 Snyd
Halftime: Duke, 43-32.
Three-point goals: Duke 6-12 (Ferry 3-5, Snyder 1-2, Strickland 1-3, Henderson 1-2); Virginia 3-9 (Johnson
Technical fouls: Brickley.