DURHAM, N.C. — The top-ranked Duke Blue Devils put a trio of lengthy win streaks on the line when they play host to the Virginia Cavaliers Wednesday night in ACC action from Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Mike Krzyzewski's team has won 17 straight games dating back to their lone loss of the season to Purdue in Alaska on November 29th. In addition, the Blue Devils have won 38 straight in Durham (the second longest current home win streak in the nation) and have won 12 straight conference games dating back to last year.
Duke kept all three win streaks going last weekend, with an 81-55 thrashing of Clemson in Durham. The Cavaliers are next in line to test Duke's resolve at home.
Virginia has once again spoiled a great start to the season, with inconsistent play in- conference. Pete Gillen's troops have won just two of their nine league tilts to date and come into Durham with a four-game losing streak in tow. N.C. State was the most recent opponent to take advantage of the Cavaliers, handing them a 79-63 whipping in Charlottesville over the weekend.
This is the 150th all- time meeting between these two teams, with Duke controlling things with a 102-47 overall record against UV. In addition, the Blue Devils have won 17 of the last 19 meetings and eight straight against Virginia at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke is looking for the regular-season sweep, after posting a rather easy 93-71 in Charlottesville on January 11th.
The Cavaliers went through a nine-minute span without a basket between the first and second halves against N.C. State, making it impossible to keep pace with the explosive Wolfpack. Devin Smith came off the bench to lead the team with 14 points. J.R. Reynolds and Gary Forbes followed with 10 points apiece, but Virginia shot just .415 from the floor and was abused on the boards to the tune of 39-22.
Scoring points has not been this team's top problem this season. In fact, the Cavaliers have done a good job in that department, averaging 75.8 ppg. Unfortunately, so have their opponents, who are netting 74.7 ppg. A number that increases to 78.7 ppg in conference play.
Center Elton Brown has led the way in the middle, pacing the team in both scoring (15.1 ppg) and rebounding (6.3 rpg). Smith is next in line in both categories (12.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg), with sniper Todd Billet (10.1 ppg) rounding out the scoring threats. Billet is one of the conference's top three-point threats, hitting 40 of his 108 long range attempts.
Clemson shot a solid .465 from the floor, but Duke hit on 49 percent of its shots and forced a whopping 22 turnovers in what turned into another rout in Durham. Sophomore guard J.J. Redick and freshman forward Luol Deng combined for 45 points in the lopsided affair.
Redick hit on 6-of-13 shots from the floor and 9-of-10 from the charity stripe, while Deng was 7-of-10 from the floor in the victory. Sophomore forward Shelden Williams added just five points to the cause, but made a much bigger impact on the glass, pulling down a game-high 12 rebounds.
The Blue Devils sit at the top of the polls thanks to some of the best defense in the nation. Duke is allowing just 60.2 ppg, on under 40 percent shooting (.392), all while forcing an impressive 18.2 turnovers per contest. It took some time for the offense to follow suit, but now the young Blue Devils are putting up points each and every outing. Duke is averaging nearly 80 points per game (78.8), on .476 shooting. Redick has assumed the scoring lead and currently is netting 16.5 ppg, thanks to .425 shooting from three-point range (62-of-146). Deng (14.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg) is one of the top freshmen in the entire nation and gets help inside from Williams (12.0 ppg, team-high 8.0 rpg, ACC-best 72 blocks). Guards Daniel Ewing (11.3 ppg) and Chris Duhon (9.7 ppg) add depth in the backcourt. One of the best point guards in the country, Duhon is averaging 6.8 assists per outing.
The Cavaliers have struggled both at home and on the road in ACC play and must now head into the belly of the beast in Durham. The Blue Devils are beginning to peak right now and with a tough road trip coming up (at NC State and at Wake Forest), there is no room for a letdown now.