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Men’s basketball suffers embarrassing 48-73 loss at Duke

A dour first half performance severely endangers NCAA Tournament hopes for Virginia

<p>Cameron Indoor Stadium is a unique venue in college basketball, famous for its roaring crowds and the student section’s extreme proximity to the court</p>

Cameron Indoor Stadium is a unique venue in college basketball, famous for its roaring crowds and the student section’s extreme proximity to the court

Virginia men’s basketball couldn’t handle the pressure at Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday, as No. 10 Duke channeled the energy of a ravenous home crowd. The Blue Devils (23-6, 14-4 ACC) sprinted to an easy victory over the Cavaliers (21-9, 12-7 ACC) with a final score 73-48. Duke’s sophomore center Kyle Filipowski torched Virginia, scoring 21 points on 14 shots and corralling 7 rebounds, while the Cavaliers were completely outplayed inside, getting outscored 44-18 in the paint and outrebounded 42-29. 

The 2023-2024 season has become infamous for unbelievable inconsistency. After a strong win at Boston College, Virginia dropped an absolute dud in what could have been a win that solidified its case for the NCAA Tournament. Now, the Cavaliers are firmly on the outside looking in.

The first seconds of the game actually went well for Virginia. Sophomore guard Ryan Dunn beat Filipowski for the tipoff despite a four-inch height deficit. Senior guard Reece Beekman then found senior forward Jacob Groves for a baseline jump shot to open the scoring. 

Duke quickly retook the lead on an and-one from sophomore forward Mark Mitchell. The Blue Devils would not relinquish it for the remainder of the game. Filipowski made layups on back-to-back possessions to extend the Blue Devils’ lead to 7-2. Beekman found Dunn for a thunderous dunk, but Duke got four more quick points to go up 11-4 at the first media timeout. 

Both teams missed good attempts out of the timeout, but the Blue Devils struck first with a Filipowski-assisted three-pointer. Beekman and Filipowski traded layups, then Filipowski sank a three-pointer from the top of the key to extend Duke’s lead to 14. Beekman clawed back three points with an acrobatic and-one against Filipowski, but a pair of baskets by freshman forward Sean Stewart increased the lead to 23-9. After a badly missed jump shot from Virginia junior guard Dante Harris, Duke pushed the ball up the floor to Filipowski for a post jump shot. 

McKneely briefly stemmed Duke’s run with a pair of free throws, but Stewart found Filipowski for a dunk and senior guard Jeremy Roach made a contested two-point shot. A Filipowski turnover offered brief respite, but the Blue Devils got another pair of easy shots at the basket to go up 33-11. Beekman sank two free throws after being fouled, but Duke battled back with a dunk and a three-pointer to extend the lead, then both teams missed open three-pointers. 

Virginia, looking completely out of sorts, made their first field goal in 10 minutes when McKneely assisted another Dunn dunk to make the score 38-15. Duke quickly responded with a jump shot with around two minutes left in the half, then both teams stagnated for several possessions. McKneely made a three-point shot with 22 seconds left in the half, and a Beekman block saved Virginia two points at the buzzer. The Cavaliers headed to the locker room downtrodden, facing a deficit of 18-40. 

In a disastrous first half, Virginia shot 23.1 percent from the field, 1-6 from three-point range and were nearly doubled in rebounds, grabbing 11 rebounds to Duke’s 21. Filipowski alone almost outscored the Cavaliers with 15 first half points. The game was really over well before the second half even began.

The Blue Devils kept their foot on the gas from the start of the second half, with Filipowski finding sophomore guard Tyrese Proctor for three points. McKneely got two of those points back with from the free-throw line, then Dunn sank an open three-pointer off of a pass from Beekman. Roach and Beekman then traded shots, keeping the difference at 20 points.

Mitchell sandwiched a free throw and a layup around a Beekman layup, then Roach assisted a dunk from Proctor. Roach added a layup, and freshman forward Blake Buchanan responded by registering the only field goal of the night by a Cavalier bench player with a layup over Filipowski. Beekman found Dunn for another big dunk, but Filipowski coolly equalized with a layup. 

This rhythm persisted for the rest of the game, with the deficit staying between 20 and 29 points all the way to the final buzzer. Both teams began to put in their bench players as the game closed, with Duke running out a 5-foot-8 former walk-on — senior guard Spencer Hubbard —  late in the half. Neither team made a field goal in the final two minutes, with only lone free throws from Harris and sophomore guard Andrew Rohde setting up a final score of 48-73. 

Beekman led the defeated Cavaliers on the stat sheet, generating 18 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists. Despite meager contributions from the starters, the bench managed to perform even worse. The second unit combined to 1-14 from the field with four total points. The Blue Devils’ bench scored 10 more points than that mark.

Cameron Indoor Stadium is a unique venue in college basketball, famous for its roaring crowds and the student section’s extreme proximity to the court. On this particular night, the crowd was in fine form, packed tight like sardines but still managing to generate anything from an ambient roar to outright deafening conditions, despite attendance of just over 9,000. Winning in Durham, N.C. is a difficult task for a young team like Virginia. 

“Reece [Beekman] is the only one of us who’d played in this building before,” Coach Tony Bennett said. “At times, it looked like that got to us.” 

With each passing loss, the Cavaliers’ hopes for a NCAA Tournament appearance are fading — seeding in the upcoming ACC Tournament is crucial. Virginia maintains third place in the ACC even after the loss, but it is still mathematically possible for it to fall out of contention for the double-bye in the ACC Tournament and as low as the fifth seed with specific results.

“We're fighting like crazy to try to, you know, finish as high as we can,” said Bennett. “Hit the best seed we can, fight for an NCAA Tournament berth — all that stuff matters. And so, you know, as crappy as I feel right now, we're still playing meaningful games."

Virginia will now look to recover from their current skid — the Cavaliers have lost four of their last six  — and salvage its NCAA Tournament hopes against Georgia Tech Saturday. The regular season finale tips off at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast on ACC Network. 


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