Friedlander: Championship rematch gives Duke, Virginia chance to settle controversial finish on the court
GREENSBORO, NC — An official’s mistake cost Duke a chance at beating Virginia in Charlottesville on Feb. 11.
The ACC acknowledged as much in a statement a few hours later.
But even though the outcome was potentially affected by the decision not to award the Blue Devils’ Kyle Filipowski 2 free throws with 0.2 seconds remaining in regulation of a tie game, the eventual result remained unchanged.
“The conference considers this matter closed and will have no further comment,” the statement concluded.
Or maybe not.
While the result of that earlier game will go down in the record books as a 69-62 overtime win for Virginia, fate has given the teams an opportunity to meet again so that they can settle the issue once and for all.
On the court, where it should be decided.
With the added juice of a championship on the line.
The 4th-seeded Blue Devils and 2nd-seeded Cavaliers will meet again on Saturday night in the ACC Tournament final at Greensboro Coliseum.
Duke advanced with a hard-fought 85-78 victory against top-seeded Miami in Friday’s early semifinal. UVA took care of its end of the equation by pummeling 3rd-seeded Clemson, 76-56, in a game that may have burst the Tigers’ NCAA Tournament bubble.
Jon Scheyer’s Blue Devils will be attempting to win their league-record 22nd tournament title. Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers will be seeking their 4th while making their 4th championship game appearance since 2014.
You’d figure that the teams would be familiar with 1 another from having played only a month ago. But in the case of Duke, the only similarity will be the fact that it’ll be wearing its dark visitors’ uniforms for the all-important rematch.
Upon further review: Duke got hosed on the road at UVA. Kyle Filipowski should have had a chance to win it at the free throw line in regulation. Not sure how you overturn this foul call. pic.twitter.com/YQSSKpZwtw
— Kyle Boone (@Kyle__Boone) February 11, 2023
The Blue Devils haven’t lost since the controversial ending in Charlottesville. They’ve gone 8-0, including 2 victories in the past 2 days here in Greensboro.
“Duke has been trending in the right direction,” said Cavaliers forward Jayden Gardner, who stated his case for tournament MVP honors with a 23-point, 12-rebound double-double against Clemson. “It’s another challenge that we’re going to have to answer, so we’ve got to meet their physicality and play Virginia basketball.”
That’s a style built around 1 of the nation’s best defenses and a patient, efficient offense, both of which are fueled by the experienced backcourt tandem of Kihei Clark, the last holdover from the Cavaliers’ 2019 national championship team, and 2-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year Reece Beekman.
UVA got some bad news just before arriving in Greensboro when graduate forward Ben Vander Plas suffered a broken hand in practice.
But 6-foot-11 redshirt junior Kadin Shedrick has filled in admirably with 2 of the best games of his career. He’s combined for 12 points, 8 rebounds and 6 blocked shots in wins against North Carolina and Clemson.
While the Cavaliers’ performance has remained consistent while compiling a 23-10 record and a share of the regular-season conference title, Duke’s rookie coach and his young team — stocked with only 1 returning player from last year’s Final Four run — continue to add elements as the season progresses.
Their latest addition is a balanced offense that has shot 55% or better in each of their 2 tournament victories while converting 19 of 42 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc.
They’ve also learned from a series of close losses earlier in the season to become a more poised unit heading down the stretch with games on the line. They showed off that newfound ability Friday by holding off a late Miami charge with a lineup that consisted of junior guard Jeremy Roach surrounded by 4 freshmen — Filipowski, Dereck Lively II, Tyrese Proctor and Dariq Whitehead.
“(Jeremy) has grown in a big-time way of being our leader,” Scheyer said. “And these (four) freshmen have come along and done an incredible job in a big-time environment.”
The moment will be even bigger on Saturday night with a pair of nets to cut down and a trophy to be awarded to the winner, not to mention the possibility of returning to Greensboro for the 1st 2 rounds of the NCAA Tournament next week.
“Whoever plays their best is going to come out victorious,” UVA’s Clark said.
“It’s an opportunity to play in the championship game for the ACC tourney,” Scheyer added. “We’re going to savor it and give it our all.”
The matchup promises to be an intense, physical affair that goes down to the wire.
Just as it was in Charlottesville.
Only this time, when it’s over, the matter really will be closed.
Once and for all.
With no further comment necessary.