Virginia-Duke Preview

Duke’s dreams of a perfect season have been dashed following a
tough road loss.

A game against a Virginia team that it has regularly frustrated
and is without its best player should help Mike Krzyzewski’s
program bounce back.

Coming off their first defeat in nearly 10 months, the
top-ranked Blue Devils look to win their 14th straight over the
Cavaliers at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday.

Duke (15-1, 2-1 ACC) had won 25 consecutive games – which
includes its runs through last season’s ACC and NCAA tournaments –
since a 79-72 loss to Maryland on March 3 heading into Wednesday at
Florida State. The Blue Devils came out flat against the Seminoles,
though, missing their first 10 3-point attempts, and ended up
losing 66-61.

Duke came in with one of the nation’s top offenses, averaging
87.8 points and 49.4 percent shooting, but finished with its lowest
point total and shooting percentage (31.1 percent). Kyle Singler
had 20 points and Nolan Smith added 19, but the rest of the team
combined for 22 points on 7 of 28 shooting.

“We have not been in a game like that (this season). They
knocked us back,” Krzyzewski said. “You just learn from the
experience. We have a long way to go.”

The Blue Devils, who haven’t dropped back-to-back games since
mid-February 2009, should seemingly have better luck against
Virginia (10-6, 1-1) at Cameron, where they’ve won 51 in a row over
unranked opponents.

Duke has outscored the Cavaliers by an average of 18.4 points in
winning the last five meetings since a 68-66 overtime loss at
Virginia on Feb. 1, 2007. The Blue Devils have won 14 of 15 in this
series, and 27 of the last 30.

Duke has also dominated this series in Durham, winning 13
straight since a 91-89 double-overtime loss on Jan. 14, 1995.

These teams met twice last season, including the Blue Devils’
57-46 victory in the ACC tournament quarterfinals. Singler averaged
19.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in those games, while Smith averaged
10.0 points.

That senior duo has been carrying Duke’s offense over the last
seven games, with Smith averaging 24.0 points and Singler 20.9.

Virginia is 1-27 against top-ranked teams with its lone win
coming over North Carolina in 1986, and pulling off this upset
won’t be easy following the loss of its senior leader.

The Cavaliers learned Monday that scoring and rebounding leader
Mike Scott would have a second surgery on his left ankle and miss
the remainder of the season.

The 6-foot-8 Scott, who had sat out the team’s last four games,
was averaging 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds, and became the first
Virginia player since Ralph Sampson in 1983 to reach double figures
in points and rebounds in five straight games.

“In his absence, all of our players will need to continue to
step up and our young frontcourt players will continue to gain
valuable experience,” Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett said.

Virginia’s frontcourt, however, had some trouble in last
Saturday’s 62-56 loss to North Carolina.

Starting forward Will Sherrill managed only two points and one
rebound while starting center Assane Sene had three points and 11
boards. The starting backcourt of KT Harrell, Jontel Evans and
Mustapha Farrakhan all scored at least 11 points

It was the third loss in five games for Virginia, which has
played eight straight at home since beating Virginia Tech in its
ACC opener Dec. 5.