In general, Virginia lacks a strong perimeter game, at least scoring-wise, and so they compensate by pounding around the basket and in the lane. They're an odd team in that the perimeter is really quick, though it doesn't shoot all that well from outside (Mason does, but not from behind the line). Keith Jenifer is much quicker than he looks on TV, and Chris Williams is an excellent athlete. There those guys are pretty fleet and then they are counterbalanced - or possibly tied down, depending on how you look at it - by Watson, and freshmen Elton Brown, and Jason Clark, not one of whom you could exactly call a great runner. Brown was content often to pop from the perimeter - in fact, he was the most serious three point threat most of the night. At least in this game, he seemed to be not particularly mobile.
Despite the somewhat mish-mash nature of the team, compounded by injuries, Pete Gillen had a workable game plan, focusing on penetration, offensive rebounding, and defense. In the first half, it worked really well, as Duke had trouble adjusting to Virginia's defense, and was pretty much killed on the boards.
The second half was a reversal, as Duke's defense and rebounding, not to mention offense, helped the Devils pull away from the Cavs/Wahoos (take your pick). Jason Williams, who had been kind of off in the first half, kicked it into gear and ran through UVa's defense several times for layups. Chris Duhon got aggressive about taking the ball to the basket. Boozer broke loose for several free layups. And Duke began to control the defensive boards. Duke got a lead of as much as 18 points before winning by 13.
At one point in the second half, Virginia missed 10 of 11 shots and turned the ball over twice, meaning that they blew 12 chances to score.
For Duke, there was plenty to criticize, particularly in the first half, which the players said Coach K did at halftime with, uh, rhetorical flourishes: poor defense, turnovers, lack of aggression and passion were likely on the list. Duhon was strangely ineffective early, and Williams had 9 turnovers in the game, which is ghastly for a player of his ability. Freshmen were outperforming Duke's experienced players in the paint. The second half, as we said, was much better, but there were still lapses.
There was a lot to praise, though, including Boozer's recent consistency (he's getting to be very big time now), Dahntay Jones' merging into the system, Mike Dunleavy's defense, rebounding, and all around passion and awareness, Chris Duhon's finally deciding to drive, and Jason Williams' defense on Mason.
One other word which we feel compelled to bring up. There has been a lot of talk on this team about leadership, and most of it has fallen on Williams, Dunleavy, and Duhon, all of whom, at times, have offered brilliant leadership. But Boozer's consistent play is a different type of leadership, and Dahntay Jones is taking every opportunity to lead as well. Keep an eye on him during dead balls and time outs. He is always talking to a teammate, encouraging him, forcing younger players to look him in the eye, tapping them in the chest, telling them that yes they really are good. He pretty clearly wants to win, and he wants to be a major force in winning. Dahntay took a lot of criticism early this year, but he's really come on and his contributions should be acknowledged.
In general, an ACC win is an ACC win, and it's always a positive. But we'd have been happier if the performance had been more consistent, and we don't just mean the players.
We make it a policy to not comment on officiating unless one of two things happens: first, that a particular (bad) call decides a game, and second, game management. The referees called this game so tightly that it never really had a chance to unfold. Whenever the game got a good groove going, out came the whistles. Every player on both teams who got at least double digit minutes had at least three fouls. A lot of calls, both ways, were hard to understand, and some were missed completely. In one case, Carlos Boozer was thrown to the ground, slid in front of the official, and held his hands up as if to say, 'well'?
That's not to say that a lot of them weren't deserved. Travis Watson, who had three first half fouls, plays an extremely physical game, and the downside of that is that eventually you get called, and he does bang heavily. Virginia's other big men, less experienced, got hit a lot. UVa's four freshmen drew 14 fouls, which shows how far a kid has to go to play at an ACC level, but Virginia has no choice but to play them, due to injuries.
But while the officiating was that of a control freak, it wasn't the key to the game. That came down, largely, to Duke's experience and versatility vs. Virginia's having to rely heavily on freshmen who were in a very tough environment, and who, in the second half, reacted to stress the way most of us would. That manifested itself in fouls throughout the game. In the second half, it also manifested itself in defensive breakdowns (Duke shot 68% in the second half), and carelessness with the ball. Normal reactions for young players, in other words.