Cavs fade vs. No. 1 Duke

Cava­liers have lost half­time leads against UNC, Duke

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY STEVE YANDA yan­das@wash­post.com

Vir­ginia’s six-point half­time lead evap­o­rates at Cameron Indoor Sta­dium in a 76-60 loss.

durham, n.c. — On con­sec­u­tive Satur­days, Vir­ginia has held nine-point sec­ond-half leads against the ACC’s two most sto­ried pro­grams. And at the end of each con­test, the Cava­liers were left to di­gest the short­com­ings that led to de­feat.

So af­ter Vir­ginia’s 76-60 loss Satur­day at Duke, fresh­man guard K.T. Har­rell talked about why a young squad play­ing with­out its best player per­forms at an op­ti­mal level for so long, only to un­ravel for the game’s most cru­cial stretch.

“I think we’ve got to have a bet­ter mind-set,” said Har­rell, who shot 1 of 6 from the field and fin­ished with two points. “I think we get a lit­tle too lax af­ter the first half when we have the lead. We’ve got to un­der­stand that the game isn’t over. We’ve got to go out there and put out even more en­ergy than we do in the first half.”

Ev­ery­thing about the cir­cum­stances in which the Cava­liers (10-7, 1-2) en­tered Cameron Indoor Sta­dium on Satur­day was un­en­vi­able. Vir­ginia had to in­tro­duce its large fresh­man class to Duke’s sto­ried home court and rowdy fans one game af­ter the Blue Devils had suf­fered their first de­feat of the sea­son, a 66-61 loss to Florida State on Thurs­day.

But the no­tion that the topranked Blue Devils (16-1, 3-1) would un­leash their pent-up frus­tra­tion on vis­it­ing Vir­ginia did not ma­te­ri­al­ize in the first half. Duke shot 34.5 per­cent from the field and made 1 of 12 shots from three-point range be­fore in­ter­mis­sion.

Vir­ginia led by six at the break. A week ear­lier, the Cava­liers had led North Carolina by seven at half­time.

When ju­nior cen­ter As­sane Sene — who had been pro­vid­ing Vir­ginia’s de­pleted front court with a solid de­fen­sive pres­ence — com­mit­ted his fourth foul with 17 min­utes 28 sec­onds re­main­ing in the game, Coach Tony Ben­nett re­moved him from the lineup.

Still, Vir­ginia led by nine with more than 16 min­utes to play.

At some point in the fol­low­ing few min­utes, though, things started to go wrong.

Duke went on a 16-2 run that gave the Blue Devils a five-point lead.

“I think we re­ally just lost our sense of ur­gency on the de­fen­sive end,” se­nior for­ward Will Sher­rill said. “And against a team like Duke that’s got a lot of great of­fen­sive play­ers, we’re go­ing to get killed.”

In­deed, Duke guard Nolan Smith con­trib­uted eight points dur­ing that surge and fin­ished with a game-high 29 points. And the lapses Vir­ginia dis­played on de­fense af­fected its play at the other end of the court.

A turnover by fresh­man guard Joe Har­ris led to a fast-break dunk by Smith with just more than 12 min­utes re­main­ing, and for the first time, Cameron Indoor Sta­dium erupted into pul­sat­ing pan­de­mo­nium.

“Es­pe­cially us be­ing a young team, we haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced a lot of games like that be­fore, and we’ve got to learn how to keep our com­po­sure,” Har­rell said. “ Things like that are go­ing to hap­pen. Peo­ple are go­ing to get dunks, and the crowd is go­ing to go crazy. We’ve just got to learn how to keep our heads and keep play­ing.”

A trio of three-point­ers by Duke guard An­dre Dawkins pushed Duke’s lead to 10 with just fewer than seven min­utes re­main­ing. From that point, the de­scent of a Cava­liers squad that hasn’t won here since 1995 was rapid.

“We’ve never won in here,” Sher­rill said. “So I think when they started knock­ing down shots, I don’t think we got de­feated, but we started to get a lit­tle more hes­i­tant on of­fense, kind of like we were wait­ing for them to dic­tate the tone for us.”

Har­ris and se­nior guard Mustapha Far­rakhan — 15 points each— com­bined to score half of Vir­ginia’s points, but with Duke’s com­mand­ing re­bound­ing edge (42-31), the Cava­liers couldn’t man­u­fac­ture enough op­por­tu­ni­ties down the stretch to keep pace.

“We’ve got to find away to last and main­tain it,” Ben­nett said. “I told them after­ward: ‘ You were there for most of the game against [North] Carolina and the same thing here. That’s where you can’t beat your­self.’ And that’s where I thought we la­bored [Satur­day]. We’ll keep learn­ing from it.”

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