No. 9 Duke faces Virginia, looks to remain atop ACC
Duke glowed in the spotlight and now the ninth-ranked Blue Devils will be right back on the court for Monday night's game against visiting Virginia in Durham, N.C.
Following an impressive performance from the weekend with another strong outing will be the objective as Duke aims to maintain first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
This will be Duke's only home game amid a six-game stretch. The Blue Devils (19-3, 9-2 ACC) have a make-up game Thursday night at Clemson before going to Boston College on Saturday.
Virginia (14-9, 8-5) is fresh off an accomplishment of its own, decking visiting Miami 71-58 on Saturday in a game that knocked the Hurricanes out of a spot just a half-game out of first place.
Now the Cavaliers will attempt to topple two of the league leaders in a matter of three days. Virginia has won three of its last four games.
With that comes confidence.
"When we're all together and one team, we're hard to beat," Virginia guard Reece Beekman said.
That's the case for Duke as well.
Duke is enjoying the exposure while on a five-game winning streak.
"The main thing I'll say about this team, the bigger the environment, the more our team comes to play," Duke forward Wendell Moore Jr. said.
The variety in which the Blue Devils have excelled recently has been noteworthy. They relied largely on defense to win Monday night at Notre Dame, then churned out several strong offensive stretches in running away from North Carolina for Saturday night's 87-67 victory.
Freshman A.J. Griffin made a huge impact with 27 points for Duke, marking his season-high total. Griffin's role keeps growing, and coach Mike Krzyzewski said sometimes it's a bit unanticipated even though players were designed to get him shots.
"We ran one thing and he just went off," Krzyzewski said.
The latest to step forward in a big way for Virginia was Armaan Franklin, who racked up 22 points in the Miami game to come within one point of the junior guard's career high.
Virginia needs to crank out more victories to get into the NCAA Tournament mix, and nothing could be much more valuable that securing an upset at Duke.
This might be as good a time as any for a measuring stick.
"Slowly, there has been improvement," Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett said. "The experience of more games and guys playing together has helped. I think guys are a little bit more settled in."
Bennett said his team has been playing with dose of freedom and a positive attitude.
"Hopefully, we can keep doing that and continuing in that regard," he said.
Duke naturally has to battle the energy issue in a game after going to Chapel Hill to tangle with rival North Carolina. But Virginia should have Duke's immediate attention because they've been lumped among the country's top teams in many of their meetings across the past decade. Duke won last season's lone meeting 66-65 at home.
Five of the last seven Duke-Virginia games have been decided by one or two points.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 6, 2022