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Duke spoils Virginia

DURHAM, N.C. - Leading 36-32 with a little more than 17 minutes remaining in the second half, Assane Sene extended his arms to try to block Mason Plumlee's floater in the lane. Duke's sophomore forward not only made the bucket, but also earned a trip to the free throw line after Virginia's junior center was called for his fourth personal foul, landing him on the bench and igniting the previously subdued crowd at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

In the seven-footer's absence, then-No. 1 Duke (16-1, 3-1 ACC) used a 17-8 run to overcome a 31-25 first-half deficit and stave off the Cavaliers (10-7, 1-2 ACC), who relinquished a 10-point lead for the second consecutive game and lost 76-60.

"I knew I didn't foul him," Sene said. "But you can't argue with [the referees]."

Sene scored four of his six first-half points after collecting offensive rebounds, establishing a much-needed inside presence with smooth, quick moves to the basket.

With senior forward Mike Scott, Virginia's scoring and rebounding leader through its first nine games, out for the season because of injury, Sene's second-half absence only exacerbated Virginia's low-post woes. Consequently, Virginia's smaller lineup struggled to rebound with the likes of Plumlee, who corralled 16 boards on the game and helped the Blue Devils grab 21 rebounds during the second half, nearly double the Cavaliers' 12.

"He's getting every rebound," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "That's an asset that's being developed."

That rebounding advantage translated into plenty of second chances for the Blue Devils, who heated up from three-point range about midway through the second half after shooting a paltry 1-for-12 from beyond the arc during the first half. In doing so, they bounced back from a disappointing Wednesday night loss against Florida State in Tallahassee. Duke has not lost consecutive games since February 2009.

Sophomore guard Andre Dawkins, who ranks second in the ACC in three-point percentage, hit three treys during a three-minute span to give Duke what proved to be an insurmountable 62-52 lead. After the guard's third three-pointer of the half, the Cavaliers' grasp on the game slipped away and they were unable to crack Duke's advantage after the five-minute mark.

"The last 10 minutes, we fractured defensively," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "We really made Duke earn most of the game up until that point with our defense ... When that went away, that's when Duke separated themselves quickly."

Indeed, Virginia held Duke to its second lowest first-half point total on the season, as the Blue Devils shot a mere 34.5 percent from the field. Krzyzewski noted his team played at Virginia's slower pace for most of the first half, during which the Cavaliers executed their half-court sets on offense and contested most of Duke's shots on the defensive end.

Senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan made two corner three-pointers early in the game, scoring 12 of his team-high 15 points in the first half. During the second half, however, he attempted only one field goal.

"I was playing the same way, I just wasn't getting the ball as much," Farrakhan said. "It wasn't that I wasn't aggressive."

As the Blue Devils limited Virginia's most explosive offensive player, they unleashed a flurry of big shots and thunderous dunks. The up-and-down pace clearly favored Duke, led by the ACC's most prolific scorer, senior guard Nolan Smith.

Smith finished with 29 points, seven rebounds and six assists, an effort capped by a breakaway dunk in traffic that sent the Cameron Crazies into a frenzy.

"We had more movement in the second half, and there were more driving opportunities because of where Nolan was placed," Krzyzewski said.

Despite losing two straight conference games, Bennett remains confident his team has something to build on.

"We've gotta find a way to last and maintain," he said. "We were there for most of the game against Carolina, and same thing here. That's where ... you can't beat yourself. That's where we labored. We'll keep learning from that"

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