No. 7 Virginia braces for improved Duke squad

University of Virginia Sports

It almost seems like a bit of role reversal from much of the season for No. 7 Virginia and Duke going into Saturday night’s game in Durham, N.C.

Now it’s Virginia trying to provide a positive spin after a miserable result. It’s Duke that’s suddenly showing signs of confidence again.

Duke has produced consecutive victories by double-digit margins for the first time this season as the Blue Devils make a push for credentials worthy of NCAA Tournament consideration.

“Knock on wood, we can keep it going,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We’re getting contributions from everybody.”

Virginia (15-4, 11-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) is atop the ACC standings, but is equal with Florida State in the loss column.

Monday night’s 81-60 loss at No. 16 Florida State marked the most-lopsided ACC defeat for Virginia in almost four years. The result snapped Virginia’s four-game winning streak.

“We always talk about how you may not win, but you’ve got to eliminate losing and be an ‘A’ in transition defense and defensive rebounding and positioning, and we weren’t that,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said in grading his team in that outing.

So now it’s about turning it around.

“It’s just trying to grow from it and learn from it,” Bennett said. “Are you wise enough and thankful enough to apply it?”

The Cavaliers have bounced back previously. They figure they know the formula.

“There’s always value in a loss. You learn from a loss,” guard Tomas Woldetensae said. “You improve from a loss more than you would improve with a win.”

Duke (9-8, 7-6) has rattled off back-to-back road victories following a three-game losing streak that included a pair of home losses. Duke demolished Wake Forest 84-60 on Wednesday night.

“We’ve been hounding on the defensive end and just not turning the ball over, because if we do that, we’re going to be in good shape to win a game,” Duke forward Matthew Hurt said. “… I think we’re going to keep playing hard and try to keep playing smart.”

Hurt has shot a combined 16-for-19 from the field, including 9 of 11 on 3s, in the past two games. He racked up 14 consecutive Duke points (last three of first half, first 11 of second half) in the Wake Forest game.

Krzyzewski said there are signs that the Blue Devils are going in the right direction.

“After those really tough, close losses, for these kids to have this great attitude and work ethic says something about them,” he said. “Again, we’ve just got to keep it going and hopefully games can be played. It was a bad day for our conference (Wednesday), where you get three of the five games postponed or canceled. Hopefully, that can cut down as we get ready for the ACC tournament.”

Virginia isn’t looking to make wholesale changes at this point in the season.

“We’re getting down to the end, and you don’t want to leave anything on the table, and that’s what we’ve got to do moving forward,” Bennett said. “You can’t reinvent the wheel. We just got to keep tightening the bolts and be as hungry as we can and as ready as we can for our next game.

“We play Duke next, and they’re a team that really pressures and is athletic as well.”

This is the only scheduled meeting of the season between Virginia and Duke.

–Field Level Media

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