Winning memories spur up-tempo VCU against Duke

shakasmart_11-23.png

Winning memories spur up-tempo VCU against Duke

For many college basketball programs, previous encounters with Duke invoke painful or at least losing memories. Quite the opposite for Virginia Commonwealth - and now the program's current roster has its own opportunity to add a "we beat Duke" chapter to the school's history.

Following Friday's win over No. 19 Memphis, VCU (3-1) faces the fifth ranked Blue Devils (4-0) in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis in Nassau, Bahamas. Giving Duke's ranking and prestige, this game has the illusion of David vs. Goliath to the uninitiated, but quite the opposite to those aware of previous events.

Over the last two seasons, the Shaka Smart-coached Rams have reached the NCAA Tournament's Final Four and the third round this past March. Since winning the National Championship in 2010, Duke bowed out in the round of 16 in 2011 and last year dropped its opening game against Lehigh.

Last season's loss was the Blue Devils earliest exit since 2007, the year VCU stunned Duke 79-77 for the program's first NCAA Tournament win in 22 seasons. Current Oklahoma City Thunder guard Eric Maynor scored 22 points that day five seasons ago in VCU's only meeting against Duke. His free throw line jumper with a second remaining propelled the Rams to what at the time was the biggest win in the program's history.

In the next battle with Duke, once again it will be VCU's backcourt leading the way. To call the Rams up-tempo would not accurately describe the rapid pace Smart choreographs for his squad, especially on defense. Spearheaded by guards Treveon Graham, Darius Theus, Briante Weber and Rob Brandenberg, VCU's relentless pressure forced 22 turnovers against Memphis, leading to 33 points.

Graham leads the Rams in scoring with 14.5 points, just ahead forward Juvonte Reddic (14.3), the team's top post option. Weber and Theus combine for 5.5 steals per game while the Rams average 9.75 3-pointers per game.

Even though Duke has perimeter threats of its own, including sharpshooter Seth Curry (18.3 ppg), VCU would be wise to keep the tempo moving considering the Blue Devils' interior power. 6-foot-10 Mason Plumlee is averaging 21.3 points while shooting a staggering 71.4 percent from the field. Mason Plumlee. The senior dominated with 20 points and 17 rebounds in Thursday's 89-71 win over Minnesota.

The challenge is not lost on Smart, who will battle coaching wits with Duke's famed leader Mike Krzyzewski for the first time.

"Playing Duke, what an incredible opportunity,'' Smart told the Associated Press "We'll be facing arguably the best program in the nation and with no argument the best coach in the modern era.

"But we won't fold up to the test.''

Seth Allen's late 3-pointer lifts Virginia Tech past Clemson

Seth Allen's late 3-pointer lifts Virginia Tech past Clemson

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Seth Allen's 3-pointer with 3.8 seconds left to play carried Virginia Tech to a 71-70 victory over Clemson on Tuesday night.

Zach LeDay scored 19 points for the Hokies (19-8, 8-7 Atlantic Coast Conference), who also beat the Tigers by a point on Jan. 22. Virginia Tech won for the third time in four games and moved to 14-1 at home this season.

The loss was the latest in series of excruciating defeats for the Tigers (14-13, 4-11), who dropped their fifth game in their past six outings. Clemson is now 3-10 in games decided by six points or less.

Clemson's Marcquise Reed hit a baseline jumper with 21.6 seconds remaining to give the Tigers a 70-68 lead. Out of a timeout, Allen missed a layup with 10 seconds left, and LeDay got the rebound, but the ball was knocked out of his hands and went out of bounds off Clemson.

Virginia Tech then worked the ball to Allen, who buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Allen finished with eight points.

Reed led the Tigers with 18 points.

MORE NCAA HOOPS: Virginia, Maryland continue sliding down in the polls

No. 18 Virginia struggles against Miami, loses its fourth straight game

No. 18 Virginia struggles against Miami, loses its fourth straight game

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Bruce Brown made a 3-pointer with 23.8 seconds left in overtime, and Miami beat No. 18 Virginia 54-48 on Monday night for the Cavaliers fourth straight loss.

Brown scored 14 points to lead the Hurricanes (19-8, 9-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) to their third consecutive victory. Kamari Murphy and Dejan Vasiljevic added 10 points each.

Devon Hall scored 15 points to lead Virginia (18-9, 8-7), which last lost four straight in 2009-10, Tony Bennett's first season as coach. Isaiah Wilkins added 10 points and 10 rebounds, including two free throws with four seconds left in regulation to tie it.

Miami thought it had won when Davon Reed hit a 3-pointer at the end of the second half, but a video review was used to determine he released the ball just after the buzzer.

A putback by Marial Shayok with 39 seconds left gave the Cavaliers a 48-47 lead, but Brown made his only 3-pointer of the game on the Hurricanes' ensuing possession, and Miami sealed it at the free-throw line.

Both teams shot under 40 percent, with Virginia at just 31.4 percent, and it wasn't until Hall made a pair of free throws with 3:38 left in the second half that either team broke the 40-point mark. However, the Cavaliers were then scoreless until Wilkins made 1-of-1 on a trip to the line with just five seconds left in regulation. 

CSN Mid-Atlantic contributed to this report. 

MORE NCAA HOOPS: Maryland continues sliding down in the polls