Duke produced a 56-41 victory at Virginia (and the final score had fewer total points than a 2010 football game between the schools) by accepting that it wasn't going to be a high-possession game. So the Blue Devils locked down defensively and, despite some turnover issues, made good use of possessions when they had a chance to pull away.
The Blue Devils have appeared comfortable in games with diverse styles. They could be in store for more of that with Sunday night's home game against Georgia Tech. It marks the first of three consecutive games against first-time opponents on this season's schedule, so despite the late-season date on the calendar the Blue Devils continue to encounter new opposition.
By now they've faced a collection of styles. Virginia's deliberate approach would seem to conflict the most with what the Blue Devils like to do, but they showed the willingness to allow their post players to become involved. And with preseason All-American Kyle Singler limited to a season-low two points, the Blue Devils showed that at least for one night they could do fine without big-time production from one of their seniors.
"Thank goodness we won on a night when he had a strange night," coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE:
The Blue Devils have limited four opponents to less than 50 points this season and more important than those defensive numbers is that Duke is finding more players capable of buying into and executing the type of defense coach Mike Krzyzewski covets. The best example of that might be sophomore G Seth Curry, whose recent offensive numbers have received considerable attention. But part of the reason Curry's numbers have risen is because he's playing longer now that his defense isn't a detriment. He's on the court more and with a total of eight steals across the past two games, Curry has shown the type of anticipation on defense that has helped disrupt backcourts.
?--The Blue Devils rode another efficient game from senior G Nolan Smith, who had 22 points and four assists, in a 56-41 road victory against Virginia to complete a season sweep. The final score marked in the lowest point totals for each team this season. Duke built a good working margin despite senior F Kyle Singler's two points, which marked the end of his ACC-leading 23 consecutive games in double figures as he played a foul-plagued 23 minutes.
--Sophomore G Seth Curry was rather ordinary with seven points on 2-for-8 shooting from the field in the game at Virginia, which served as the closest venue on the Duke schedule to his former campus before he transferred from Liberty. And there was more to the meeting with Virginia because Virginia assistant coach Ritchie McKay was Curry's coach at Liberty. Curry seemed unfazed that his seven points were his lowest output in the last five games.
--Sophomore F Ryan Kelly has scored in double figures in six games this season and four of those have come on the road after Wednesday night's 11-point performance at Virginia. But more impressive to coach Mike Krzyzewski was Kelly's defense against Virginia. Kelly blocked four shots and picked up a steal without committing a foul.
--Duke played in front of record crowd of 7,972 at Miami's on-campus arena in the Feb. 13 game. The Blue Devils have played in front of sell-out crowds in all except four games this season. Two of the non-sellouts were neutral-court games in arenas built for the NBA, and the other two were within a couple hundred fans of being sellouts.
--The Blue Devils had to go for a stretch at Miami without senior G Nolan Smith, whose two early fouls combined with being poked in the eye meant he missed time. He logged only 29 minutes in the game, considerably below his average of 37 minutes per game in ACC games (rating second in the league behind Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney entering the outing). Because of that, senior F Kyle Singler passed him on that list because Singler played the full 40 minutes.
BY THE NUMBERS:
23 -- Consecutive games in which senior F Kyle Singler had scored in double figures before his two-point total at Virginia on Wednesday. That had been the longest active streak in the league, though his previous two games had resulted in 10 points vs. North Carolina and 14 at Miami.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
?"They say big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games. I felt good out there." -- Sophomore G Seth Curry, a transfer from Liberty who's starting to carve his own reputation with consistent scoring. He's the younger brother of Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--vs. Georgia Tech, Feb. 20
?KEY MATCHUPS: This will be the only regular-season meeting between the teams, and Duke's experience could be a factor. The Blue Devils are capable of throwing multiple defenders at Georgia Tech G Iman Shumpert, most notably G Nolan Smith and G Tyler Thornton. One of the keys for Duke will be making sure no other Georgia Tech player heats up if Shumpert is contained. Shumpert also has been his team's leading rebounder.
Keeping sophomore G Andre Dawkins as a viable contributor will be one of the goals in the short term because he's bound to be a key factor if the Blue Devils are to make an extended postseason run. Dawkins' playing time has fallen off at times, yet with freshman G Kyrie Irving sidelined, the Blue Devils need all the help they can get in the backcourt to assist G Nolan Smith. Much of the recent attention has fallen on sophomore G Seth Curry because of his scoring and freshman G Tyler Thornton because of his place in recent starting lineups. But Dawkins is a long-range threat who has shown flashes of athleticism, and he's capable of busting out for sizeable contributions. His 2-for-13 shooting from the field across the past three games through Feb. 13 is something the Blue Devils will want to see improve.
?--Freshman G Tyler Thornton had shot a total of 17 free throws this season prior to Feb. 13. Then he went 6-for-6 in the final minute at Miami. He had played in all except two games this season, and one of the games he didn't enter was Duke's first meeting of the season against Miami.
--Senior G Nolan Smith is bidding to become the first player in ACC history lead the league in scoring and assists. His closest competition in the assists category, through Feb. 13, was North Carolina F Kendall Marshall. He held about a three-points-per-game lead on Virginia Tech G Malcolm Delaney in the scoring category. Duke has matchups with both those teams across its last three regular-season outings.
--Sophomore G Seth Curry ended up back in the starting lineup at Miami, and he continued his hot shooting that surfaced a few days earlier against North Carolina. Curry, who replaced freshman G Tyler Thornton as a starter, hit three first-half 3-pointers and collected 13 of his 16 points for the game in the opening half Feb. 13.