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Posted at 6:07 AM ET, 02/17/2011

No. 5 Duke 56, Virginia 41: Three up, three down

By Steve Yanda

Including Virginia's 56-41 loss to No. 5 Duke on Wednesday night, the Cavaliers own the No. 4 scoring defense in the ACC. Virginia has allowed its 25 opponents this season to score an average of 63 points per game.

And still, the Cavaliers possess a negative-1.2 scoring margin.

Indeed, Virginia is 3-8 in league play and 12-13 overall because it cannot acheive the sport's primary objective: Score points. The Cavaliers are averaging 61.8 points per game, which ranks last in the ACC by nearly seven full points. Virginia has been even more offensively offensive during its conference slate, where the Cavaliers are averaging 58.1 points per game and own a negative-5.9 scoring margin.

"You have to shoot a shot with confidence," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said Wednesday. "Before the game, I said, 'Listen, if you get a shot, shoot it with confidence.' You have to be able to trust yourself to shoot it. A couple of times, I thought we didn't shoot some that we should've caught and shot in rhythm. Instead, we hesitated and forced some. We were a little quick at times."

The Cavaliers shot 28.6 percent from the field against Duke, the fifth time this season that they've shot worse than 36 percent from the field at home. Shooting with confidence, it seems, is easier said than done.

Three Up:

1) Defense. Against the No. 5 team in the country -- a team that entered the night averaging more than 80 points per game -- Virginia gave up 56 points. That was a season-low for Duke. The Blue Devils didn't get much help from Kyle Singler, who finished with two points on 1 for 5 shooting and five turnovers. Duke committed 18 turnovers on the night.

2) Akil Mitchell. Defensively, the freshman forward appears to be progressing quite nicely. He tallied five rebounds (four defensive) and three steals in 24 minutes off the bench Wednesday. Due to injuries to Mike Scott and Will Sherrill, the Cavaliers don't have much interior depth to speak of, and the expanded playing time Mitchell is receiving now will benefit him in the long run. As Bennett pointed out, though, Mitchell still needs to work on becoming more of a factor on the offensive end, where he shot 1 for 4 and recorded two points against the Blue Devils.

3) No one lit themselves on fire. Always a plus.

Three Down:

1) Shooting. Mustapha Farrakhan shot 4 for 14 from the field. Joe Harris shot 2 for 11. Sammy Zeglinski shot 1 for 7. The Cavaliers played some pretty stingy defense Wednesday, but they'll rarely be able to play stingy enough defense to be able to afford those three players having off shooting nights at the same time.

2) Turnovers. The final total (12) wasn't all that bad. But the timing of the turnovers and the manner in which they occured absolutely crushed Virginia in its attempts to build or regain momentum. Farrakhan registered five. Jontel Evans and Assane Sene each had a pair. Some of them were careless; others were tragically comical, such as when Sene missed a pass from Evans early in the second half and the ball bounced off his knee into the arms of an unsuspecting Duke player. The Blue Devils scored 13 points off of Virginia turnovers.

3) Injuries. As if the Cavaliers could afford another one, Evans went down with an Achilles injury to his left heel less than three minutes into the second half. He returned, but then had to exit again after suffering cramps in both legs and his back. Evans, who played just seven minutes in the second half against Duke, said afterward he expects to play Saturday against Virginia Tech.

"Our depth isn’t great right now, and then it became an issue" after Evans got injured, Bennett said. "And guys were getting tired out there."

By Steve Yanda  | February 17, 2011; 6:07 AM ET
Categories:  Men's Basketball  
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