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Cavs end nine-game skid at ACC tourney

Virginia topples Boston College, delivers scare to top-seed Duke; Landesberg

GREENSBORO, N.C. - Dark, fiery, tattooed letters marked on Mustapha Farrakhan's left shoulder read: The Chosen One. With 6:24 remaining during the second half of Virginia's quarterfinal matchup against No. 1 seed Duke, the junior guard received the ball at the top of the key and drilled a three-pointer to close the Cavaliers' deficit to two and imbue the Wahoo faithful with new life.

As he trotted back on defense, Farrakhan did not smile, staring down Duke junior forward Kyle Singler. As if to say the No. 9 seed was nothing but a number. That one more three would give his team a new identity, one with no memory of a month-long losing streak and no Sylven Landesberg. That the Cavaliers might have been chosen to knock off the team everyone loves to hate.

"With that three, we was right there," junior guard Jeff Jones said. "That gave us hope, a lot of hope. We still was in it, the crowd got in it."

Three minutes and 52 seconds later, the team that held the Blue Devils to just two second-chance points during the first half surrendered an 11-0 run, which included two crucial put-backs by junior guard Nolan Smith and junior forward Kyle Singler during the final six minutes. Senior point guard Jon Scheyer added three buckets during the stretch, each of which demonstrated his First Team All-ACC talent. A dribble-drive along the right baseline that resulted in a layup and drew a foul punctuated the run and gave Duke an insurmountable 57-44 lead.

Scheyer "certainly made some plays down the stretch," coach Tony Bennett said. "Every time we were out of position or had a breakdown, they made us pay - he did certainly. That's really the mark of a team."

The Cavaliers, however, limited Duke to just nine first-half field goals - its second fewest on the season - and ultimately to its lowest scoring total of the year.

The Blue Devils began the game 0-for-5 from the field and did not score until Scheyer hit a triple from the left corner at the 16:24 mark. The Cavaliers did not find the net early, either, but kept the game close with strong close-outs on defense, limiting Duke to single-shot attempts, most of which did not fall. Virginia's guards grabbed 10 of the team's 22 rebounds during the first period, which translated into eight fast break points to Duke's zero.

Sophomore guard Sammy Zeglinski set the tempo early when he corralled a rebound and sent a pass ahead to Farrakhan, who dished the ball to a trailing Mike Scott, resulting in a thunderous one-handed dunk. Duke led for most of the half, though, and began to look like the top seed in the tournament when Smith carved through the Virginia defense and dropped a smooth floater in the lane to take an eight-point lead. Jones responded with an unlikely four-point play, followed by a goaltending call on Scott's attempted layup that closed the gap to two. A couple of possessions later, Jones squared up from the same location as his previous spot, nailing a three from the right corner. The Cavaliers closed out the half with four free throws and were tied 27-27 with then-nationally ranked No. 4 Duke at halftime.

"I think we did a good job in the first half limiting them to one shot, contesting all their shots," senior forward Jerome Meyinsse said. "I think that was a big difference between this game and [the] last game [against Duke] - we did a lot better job defensively, especially in the first half - contesting their shots, keeping them out of the lane and protecting our backboards."\nBut the team that held the Blue Devils to a 31 percent shooting during the first half - 10.1 below its overall average in conference games - could not cage Duke's big three of Smith, Scheyer and Singler for a full 40 minutes. Singler shot 6-for-10 from the field for 14 points in the final period, including a wide-open trey from the left wing after Scheyer collected his own miss and passed the ball to his fellow First Team All-ACC teammate. Duke built its lead to 11 when senior forward Lance Thomas tacked on two free throws. Just as Virginia began to see its season slip away, the Cavaliers delivered one final push with a 9-0 run, culminating in Farrakhan's aforementioned three-pointer.

"I think our guys got it right today," Bennett said. "They usually wait 'til their offense is rolling to energize their defense - not today. They had their defense revved up. For the majority of the game - I don't know if that's the best we played defensively - but close. Those guys can all score."

This defensive attitude was ever present Thursday against Boston College as Virginia rolled to a 68-62 victory and its first win since Feb. 3 against N.C. State.

The Cavaliers held the Eagles to 38.5 percent shooting en route to a 34-27 lead at the end of the first period for their first halftime lead since their Feb. 13 loss against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Virginia took Boston College's leading scorer, junior forward Joe Trapani, out of the game, holding him to his first field goal-less performance of the season.

"We just tried to tag all screens - he was a big emphasis going into the game," Meyinsse said. "We know he's a great three-point shooter, he's also a great offensive rebounder, so our main focus was to not give him many open looks and try and keep him off the glass and we did that today."

Just as impressive as the Cavaliers' shut-down defense on Trapani was the revival of Zeglinski's touch from beyond the arc. Between Virginia's Jan. 31 victory against North Carolina in Chapel Hill and its regular season finale against Maryland, Zeglinski made 7-of-44 three-point attempts, good for a 16 percent success rate.

The guard rediscovered his stroke against the Terrapins, however, drilling four of his eight attempts. His strong play continued into first round action, as Zeglinski drained his first two three-point attempts and shot 4-of-7 from beyond the arc during the first half.

When asked, as a former shooter himself, if Bennett encouraged Zeglinski to assume a nothing-to-lose mentality with his jump shot, Bennett cracked a smile.

"I still can shoot a little bit, so I'm not a former shooter all the way," he joked. "Certainly with Sammy and with all of our guys - we just want 'em to take, if they get a good look and it's in the rhythm of the offense, we say it's a green-light shot, take it."

Zeglinski's season-high 21-point effort was buttressed by significant contributions from Farrakhan, Jones, Meyinsse and Scott, who each scored in double figures.

And though the Cavaliers could not sustain their balanced scoring against Duke, Bennett said he was inspired by the way his team responded to the various challenges it faced during the last few games. After the final buzzer signaled the conclusion of Virginia's season, Bennett took a moment to soak in his first year as a coach in the ACC.

"Every team was capable - and that certainly makes it a challenge, but very impressed with the quality," Bennett said. "There's a lot established here, and for me to be able to have chance to try and establish a program at Virginia - at my age, in this league, amongst these coaches - is a privilege. It's hard, it's a challenge, but it's something I'm very thankful for."

Notes: Against Boston College, five Virginia players scored in double figures for only the third time this season. No one else scored. Against Duke, only four Cavaliers scored ... Virginia had a season-low five turnovers against the Eagles ... The first-round victory marked Virginia's first ACC Tournament win since 2006 ... Following his 8-of-15 shooting performance from the field against Boston College, Zeglinski shot 0-for-9 against Duke.


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