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.