Duke 83, Virginia 76
When they played Duke two months ago, the Virginia Cavaliers couldn't stop J.J. Redick. One month ago, they couldn't stop Shelden Williams. Tonight, Daniel Ewing became the third Blue Devil to post a career-high point total against Virginia, scoring 32 to lead third-seeded Duke to an 83-76 win in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament.
The victory by Duke (22-6) produced the first all-North Carolina semifinals since 1963 and only the fourth in the 50-year history of the ACC postseason.
From Virginia's perspective, the loss extends the Cavaliers' postseason losing streak to 13, including an 0-8 record in Pete Gillen's five season as coach. The Cavaliers (15-15) have not won an ACC tournament game since 1995.
"We gave it our best effort against a great team," Gillen said. "I guess I've got to coach better and we've got to get our players better."
Sixth-seeded Virginia held a slim 30-29 lead at halftime but fell victim to a surge by the Blue Devils in the opening minutes of the second half that put the Cavaliers in a 53-40 hole. They pulled within five points six times in the final 11 minutes, but could not break through. Nineteen Virginia turnovers led to a 20-12 advantage for Duke.
"Turnovers killed us," Virginia's Elton Brown said. "Our offense did good, we played basically good defense, but turnovers just killed us. Against a team like that, you can't turn the ball over at all."
Duke moves on to face seventh-seeded North Carolina in Saturday's semifinal round, while the Cavaliers are left hoping this wasn't their final game of the season. Though their NCAA tournament hopes were sunk by seven straight losses in the past month, Virginia's .500 record makes it eligible for a third National Invitation Tournament bid in four years. But even that might not happen if the NIT selection committee focuses on Virginia's 2-10 record in road games.
"The NIT, it's not a bad tournament," Virginia senior Travis Watson said. "I told everybody it's another opportunity for me to play before my [college] career ends."
Watson became the 19th player in ACC history to reach 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds, but that was the only good news for the all-ACC power forward in what may have been his final college game. He fouled out with 6 minutes and 55 seconds left, with eight points and seven rebounds.
In his absence, Brown became Virginia's go-to post player down the stretch, when he scored most of his 15 points as the Cavaliers attempted a comeback. Devin Smith added 19 points and Derrick Byars scored 11, but Ewing and teammates Dahntay Jones (16 points) and Redick (12 points) were too much.
Like Redick in the first Duke-Virginia matchup and Williams in the second, Ewing topped his previous career high. The sophomore guard hit 11 of 16 field goal attempts, including 5 of 7 three-pointers, and all five of his free throws.
"He's a great player," Gillen said. "They've got great talent and a great coach. . . . They've got so many bullets in their gun."