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Cavs' maturity showed in blowout loss

DURHAM, N.C.-It wasn't supposed to turn out like this.

The Virginia men's basketball team was supposed to have somewhat of a chance at No. 3 Duke Saturday in a rematch of the Jan. 5 game in Charlottesville, in which the Cavaliers sent the Blue Devils to overtime before falling 109-100.

But in the first five minutes of Saturday's 106-86 Virginia loss, it became clear this wasn't going to be as competitive as the last game. Instead, it looked eerily similar to the type of game Virginia fans were used to seeing last year, when the Cavs had only six scholarship players and no depth.

With the addition of seven players, this year was supposed to be different. But Duke opened the first half with an 8-0 scoring run that included an injury to Cav big man Travis Watson in the first 30 seconds of the game.

"It was like a first-round knockout," Virginia Coach Pete Gillen said.

For the remainder of the game, Duke's smallest lead was seven points.

Gillen credited the deficit to Cavalier anxiety after missing several early shots.

"We had some good easy shots that we should have made," Gillen said. "But we missed them and we got nervous and uptight and the snowball just went down the hill and killed us."

Duke guard Nate James, who finished with nine points and six rebounds, said Virginia came into raucous Cameron Indoor Stadium with the wrong attitude.

"They thought that we were going to be a little lackadaisical, a little unprepared to play because we had just beaten UNC," James said. "I think we were ready to play and that kind of surprised them. They were coming in here with the attitude that they could steal one here, beat Duke, try to get back in the lead for second place in the ACC and we were determined not to let that happen at home."

The Blue Devils went into halftime with a 65-33 lead, a seemingly insurmountable deficit for the Cavaliers. In fact, Duke's lead this year was 18 points greater than the 51-37 halftime score in last year's contest at Cameron, a game Virginia went on to lose by 46.

"I thought we needed to attack," Blue Devil Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We did that. We had a lot of energy. That first half ... I was shocked at the score."

Krzyzewski was not the only observer surprised at the halftime score, but the way the Cavs played going into the second half was just as perplexing.

Krzyzewski said that he expected Virginia's up-tempo playing style to wear out his team as the game progressed, which was why the early lead was so important to Duke.

While the Cavs did not succeed in wearing out the Blue Devils in the first half of the game, they also were not willing to let Duke's 32-point lead at intermission discourage their efforts in the second half.

"I played here my first two years and, every time, we got blown out by 40 or more," Virginia point guard Donald Hand said. "I knew that they could come out and score in bunches so I wanted to keep the team together and instill in everybody's head that we had a chance to win. We had to just go out there and give it our all for the next 20 minutes."

With 8:36 left in the second half, Virginia cut the lead to 18 with a driving layup by Hand. The Cavs would get no closer for the remainder of the game, but their effort in the second half proved that the team out on the court was different from last year's squad.

While last year's Cavaliers were only down by 14 at the half at Duke, they ended up losing 115-69. A large part of that was fatigue, but an equal part was the feeling of hopelessness that stemmed from facing a juggernaut. Coming back from behind was something last year's team was not capable of doing.

Although this year's team also fell short of a comeback against Duke, it proved without a doubt that it could and would go down swinging.

"We're down 32 at the half and whatever it was, we came back and played hard in the second half," Gillen said. "If we had played like that in the first half, it would have been a lot more competitive. We would not have won, but it would have been a lot better of a game. We showed some character. We've got good kids who didn't quit, didn't roll over, who didn't die."

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