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Overtime victory especially sweet for pair of battle-tested Cavalier veterans

As Virginia senior Willie Dersch stood atop the University Hall scorer's table late Saturday night looking out over a throng of jubilant Cavalier fans basking in an 89-87 overtime win against No. 17 Maryland, he could not wipe the smile off his face.

A few feet to his left, Cav center Colin Ducharme, a redshirt junior who came to Charlottesville with Dersch four years ago, brandished a grin and a cooler of water, poised to dump the latter over the head of victorious Virginia Coach Pete Gillen.

Pinning down an upset victory that may give the Cavaliers their first NCAA Tournament bid since 1996-97 was reason enough to celebrate, but for Dersch and Ducharme, the moment was especially sweet because of their contributions to that win.

The casual observer might have never realized they had just concluded a regular season that featured plenty of frustration and bench time for both players.

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  • In what could have been the final appearance in the orange and blue for both, Dersch and Ducharme scored six points apiece in barely double-digit minutes and provided their usual spark of energy for the Cavaliers.

    Dersch, the lone Virginia senior, was honored before the game with a framed jersey and got to start for the first time since Feb. 2 in College Park. The much-maligned high school All-American took a seat for the rest of the first half with 12:21 left, but he made the most of his time on the court. Dersch pumped in three layups and dished a no-look pass to freshman Travis Watson, who drew Lonny Baxter's second foul.

    "I knew I was on the clock and I was going to be coming out after five minutes or so," Dersch said. "So I just wanted to attack the rim and be aggressive."

    Ducharme, who may not return for his final year of eligibility next season, came in when Dersch left in the first half and kept up his teammate's passionate play. The 6-foot-9 Richmond native scored on three of five Virginia possessions in one stretch, including a 17-foot corner jumper.

    Ducharme also grabbed the most important rebound of the game, snatching the ball with 4.3 seconds left in overtime when Maryland's Steve Blake intentionally missed his second free throw with the Cavs up two. The effort earned Ducharme his sixth rebound of the game and a kiss on the forehead from an exuberant Watson.

    After missing all but one game last season with an ankle injury, Ducharme has received almost no playing time this year, the victim of a numbers crunch brought on by the arrival of six talented newcomers.

    "I haven't complained a lot," Ducharme said. "I'm just trying to work hard. I'm not going to lie; it's been really frustrating for me personally, but I don't want to detract from what the team's doing. You've got to use your frustration to motivate you."

    Ducharme has been asked all season if he plans on returning next season, but he insists he has not thought about it. That hasn't stopped reporters from asking.

    "At this point I just want to play in the ACC Tournament and make noise in the NCAAs," Ducharme laughed. "I'm going to dodge [the question] as much as you give it to me."

    Ducharme's dream of heading to The Big Dance looks like it may come true. With a victory over the No. 17 team in the country and a third-place finish in the ACC, the Cavaliers are a good bet to make the NCAA Tournament.


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