Duke frustrates Virginia in 59-49 win

Call it a slow burn. Call it a defensive battle. Call it a sleeper. Call it lowball.

Duke’s 10-point victory over Virginia on Saturday night was not one for the ages. But it still counts.

One could be forgiven for expecting a more exciting contest.

It took all week for 2-seed Virginia to land here in the Greensboro Coliseum against 4-seed Duke, with heavy wins over Carolina and Clemson that made them look unstoppable on offense, impenetrable on D.

Duke, too, played big this week, putting Pitt in the smashbox with a 96-69 victory that saw their star player, Kyle Filipowski, sit down after 15 minutes and 22 points. Then they knocked out regular-season champion Miami in a convincing, if not so lopsided victory.

Storylines aplenty in this one: Duke’s first year without the vaunted Coach K, Greensboro’s last year with the tournament for the foreseeable future, favorable placement in the NCAA Tournament on the line — a win for either team might mean a game close to home next week in Greensboro during the tourney.

They played just once during the regular season, with Virginia emerging victorious in a close one, 69-62. The game saw 11 lead changes. And in it, Filipowski missed literally every shot he took: 0-6 from the field, 0-1 form beyond the arch, 0-2 on free throws for crying out loud. Duke managed a win with a goose egg form their best scorer and 27 points off the bench.

For all the buildup, this one started at a crawl.

Filipowski broke his jinx with a layup at 15:33 to put his team ahead 8-3. And there the score would stay for the next 3 minutes.

Both team’s scores remained in the single digits until 12:38, when Filipowski drained his first 3, making the score 11-5. Virginia didn’t crack the 10-point mark until there was 7:27 left in the first half, which was soon followed by a 5-minute scoring drought.

Virginia shot just 27 percent from the floor, dropped just one three-pointer and sunk jus half their free throws, leaving them behind at the half 24-17

But the thing about a low-scoring game is that it’s always in reach. And so we watched.

We kept waiting for one of them — any of them — start dropping some buckets. We got long stretches of drudgery punctuated by tiny bursts of excitement: A steal; a three; a dunk. Something!

With 1 minute left Virginia came alive briefly, closing the gap to 5, but it wasn’t enough. It was never enough. A few late fouls of desperation sent Duke into the double bonus and sealed their fate.

Duke won their championship game on the strength ofFilipowski’s double-double — 20 points, 10 rebounds — and 23 points by Jeremy Roach. Filipowski would be named ACC Tournament MVP.

For Virginia, Reece Beekman, with 12 points, and Isaac McNeely, with 10, earned notables. But really, neither team in the championship played all that great. Virginia shot just 33 percent from the floor, Duke not much better at 42 percent.

The Greensboro Coliseum stayed full until the trophy hoist — it was a roomful of Duke fans — each one happy as a little kid on the Jumbotron. And it’s great for them  a record-setting win for a first-year coach and perhaps an opportunity to play in this same building next week. But in another sense, the ACC left Greensboro with a whimper, rather than a bang

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