Virginia Tech-Duke Preview
After concluding a grueling portion of its schedule with a win over the nation's top-ranked team, Duke will close the season with a considerably easier three-game stretch.
The sixth-ranked Blue Devils seek their Division I-leading 32nd straight home win Tuesday night against lowly Virginia Tech.
With their Feb. 12 contest at North Carolina postponed a week due to a snowstorm, the Blue Devils (22-6, 11-4 ACC) had to pack in four games over eight days. They knocked off Maryland and won at Georgia Tech before falling apart late in a 74-66 loss to the Tar Heels on Thursday as they were outscored 44-29 in the second half.
Duke bounced back in a large way with a 66-60 victory over then-No. 1 Syracuse on Saturday, though it came with a controversial ending.
With the Blue Devils clinging to a two-point lead, Rodney Hood drew a charge on C.J. Fair with 10.4 seconds left. The close call drew the ire of Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who took to the court to protest before being promptly whistled for two technicals and ejected. Boeheim later dubbed it the "worst call of the year."
Conference commissioner John Swofford agreed with the ejection but wouldn't say whether the charge decision was correct, labeling it a judgment call.
"'We don't second-guess judgment calls that officials give. They have to make them all of the time," Swofford said. "That's probably the toughest call in basketball to make, even with the way it's changed."
Regardless, it went down as the Blue Devils' first win over the No. 1 ranked team since knocking off Arizona on Nov. 26, 1997. Their 31st consecutive home victory also ties them with Stephen F. Austin for the longest active streak in the country.
Jabari Parker continued to dazzle for Duke, going 6 of 8 from the field and finishing with 19 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double in five games.
"That's the way it's going to be in the ACC tournament and then the NCAA," Parker said of the team's challenging stretch. "We've got to play back-to-back competitive games, but I think we're going to get used to it."
The slate lightens up against last-place Virginia Tech (9-17, 2-12), which has lost 12 of 13. Duke will close its schedule by visiting a Wake Forest squad that has dropped seven in a row before hosting the rematch with the Tar Heels, whom they've won three of four against at home.
Still, the Blue Devils could use some fine-tuning. They're shooting 31.8 percent from 3-point range over the last four contests while averaging 67.3 points. They had been scoring 82.2 a game while hitting 42.0 percent from deep.
Rasheed Sulaimon, who is shooting 43.9 percent from beyond the arc, is 2 for 11 over the last four games, though Parker is 5 for 10.
Duke was also just 13 of 25 from the free-throw line against Syracuse and is 30 for 57 (52.6 percent) over its last three after shooting 74.4 percent through the first 25 contests.
The Blue Devils will be looking for their seventh straight win over the Hokies after sweeping two meetings last season by a combined 60 points. They're 19-1 all-time against Virginia Tech at home.
The Hokies come off a 71-64 home loss to North Carolina State on Saturday despite outrebounding the Wolfpack and shooting a better percentage from the field. However, they were 22 of 37 from the free-throw line and are shooting 64.3 percent on the season.