GAME NOTES: A pair of 12-4 teams are set for an Atlantic Coast Conference showdown on Monday night, as the Duke Blue Devils welcome the Virginia Cavaliers to Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Virginia could not have asked for a better start to its ACC schedule at 3-0, defeating Florida State (62-50), Wake Forest (74-51) and NC State (76-45). The Cavaliers have not won three straight to open league play since the 2009-10 season, and they have won back-to-back road games.
On the other hand, Duke has not fared so well at the start of conference action. It was able to defeat Georgia Tech at home on Jan. 7 (79-57), but that victory was sandwiched between a pair of losses to Notre Dame (79-77) and Clemson (72-59). The good news for the Blue Devils is that they have yet to lose in Durham in nine tries and have won 25 straight at Cameron Indoor Stadium dating back to last season.
Duke holds a commanding 115-49 advantage over Virginia in the all-time series, although the Cavaliers won the most recent meeting at home on Feb. 28, 2013, 73-68.
The Cavaliers put forth their most dominating win of the season at NC State on Saturday afternoon, as they shot 46.8 percent from the field, held the Wolfpack to just 28.9 percent shooting and won the takeaway battle, 16-7, en route to the 31-point victory. Mike Tobey and Joe Harris each netted 16 points, with the duo combining to shoot a perfect 10-of-10 at the free-throw line. Malcolm Brogdon scored 13 points, while Akil Mitchell was impressive down low with eight points and 12 rebounds.
On the season, Virginia has a less than stellar offensive attack, as it shoots 44.3 percent from the field for a mere 65.9 ppg, but it is more than able to make up for it with elite play on the other end of the floor, ranking seventh in the nation in field-goal percentage defense (.369) and second in scoring defense (55.2 ppg). Harris paces the squad with 10.7 ppg, doing so on a strong 24-of-59 from 3-point range (.407), while Brogdon (10.1 ppg) and Justin Anderson (9.6 ppg) have also been solid.
After carrying a six-point lead into the halftime locker room on Saturday at Clemson, Duke fell flat in the second stanza and eventually lost by 13 points. Despite committing just five turnovers on the afternoon, it shot less than 34 percent from the field and was dominated in the rebounding battle, 48-30. Rodney Hood did what he could to keep his team in it with 20 points, while Jabari Parker added 15 points but on just 5-of-13 from the field. Quinn Cook was also off the mark with his shots (3-of-14), but he tallied seven assists and three steals.
It was a rare underwhelming performance for the Blue Devils, who shoot 48.4 percent from the field (including 40.8 percent from 3-point range) for 82.7 ppg this season, which is 13.8 ppg more than they allow. They also live in the green in terms of rebounding (+1.2) and turnovers (+3.0) and are aided by a solid .736 free-throw percentage. Parker has not only lived up to the hype as one of the best of an elite freshmen class but has established himself as one of the nation's premiere playmakers, posting 19.5 ppg (on 49.6 percent from the field) and 7.6 rpg. Hood (18.6 ppg) is an outstanding second option, while Cook is equally capable of filling the bucket himself (13.6 ppg) as he is getting his talented teammates involved (6.1 apg).
With four losses already on the season, Duke has not lived up to preseason expectations as one of the nation's elite teams, but it can still make claim to that title in Durham, where it has been nothing short of dominant. Virginia's stout defense will surely be able to slow down the Blue Devils offense somewhat, but don't expect the Cavaliers to keep pace in this one.
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