Last month, Duke lost a heartbreaker to the top team in the ACC, and perhaps the best team in college basketball. But Saturday night, a red-hot Virginia Tech team was able to pull off what the Blue Devils could not.

No. 12 Duke will host Virginia Tech Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium and look to continue building on a strong showing against Georgia Tech. The matchup is the first of two meetings with the Hokies this month, as the Blue Devils will travel to Blacksburg Feb. 26 in their final game before hosting archrival North Carolina. The visitors come to Durham with major momentum after defeating their own rival, current No. 1 Virginia, in a monumental 61-60 overtime victory Saturday.

After a two-game skid, with losses to unranked St. John’s and the Tar Heels, the Blue Devils were desperate for a win Sunday night in Atlanta. With freshman forward Marvin Bagley III out of the lineup due to a mild knee sprain, the Blue Devils needed big men Wendell Carter Jr. and Marques Bolden to deliver. Carter turned in a quality performance in his hometown, scoring 19 points to go along with 10 rebounds, and Duke held off a second-half rally by the Yellow Jackets to win 80-69. 

“We just have to step up,” Carter said of playing without Bagley. “Marvin comes and plays hard every day. Every game, he plays hard on the offensive and defensive end, so we just have to pick up that slack since he’s not out there with us.”

Now, the Blue Devils must turn their attention toward a dangerous opponent which has demonstrated its ability to compete with the best the NCAA has to offer. The Hokies (18-7, 7-5 in the ACC) have won five of their last six games, with their only loss in that stretch coming at the hands of Miami. In addition to their statement win against the Cavaliers, they defeated then-No. 14 North Carolina by double digits Jan. 22. Duke (20-5, 8-4), on the other hand, has gone 0-2 against those two teams.

Last season, Virginia Tech defeated Duke 89-75 despite a 34-point performance by Luke Kennard when Grayson Allen was suspended for tripping Elon’s Steven Santa Ana. The Hokies relied on a balanced offensive attack to wear down Duke’s defense, with six players scoring in double figures. This could once again be a problem for the Blue Devils in Wednesday’s matchup, as Virginia Tech boasts one of the most balanced offenses they have faced all season. Four of its five starters average between 11.4 and 13.8 points per game, led by junior guard Justin Robinson, who is also a proficient passer with 5.7 assists per game.

Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel said Monday that a decision has not yet been made regarding Bagley’s status against Virginia Tech. Speaking with the media Tuesday, Carter added that Bagley has not been practicing with the team this week. 

With the big man averaging 11.4 rebounds per game uncertain to play Wednesday night, Carter and Bolden will once again be tasked with filling the voids left by his absence in rebounding and in post scoring. 

Carter noted the cohesiveness of Virginia Tech’s squad and said that Duke will need to sustain a high level of energy to come away with a win.

“Recently, we’ve been playing well in the first half, but something’s not there for us in the second half,” he said. “As long as we come out and play hard for 40 minutes, I believe we’ll come out on the victorious side.”

Freshman guard Gary Trent Jr., who has established himself as a premier threat from deep in the second half of the season, concurred. Trent has made 15 of his last 24 3-point attempts and will look to stay hot against Virginia Tech. In Tuesday’s press conference, he had high praise for his opponent, but the 19-year-old feels confident in his teammates’ mutual trust in each other and in their gameplan.

“They’re a great team, they’re well-coached and they have some phenomenal players,” Trent said of the Hokies. “But we’re just going to go out there and play hard, and I feel like if we play our basketball, play Duke basketball and do what we came to do, we should be successful.”

Mitchell Gladstone contributed reporting.