The Chronicle's Ryan Hoerger and Brian Pollack preview Saturday's showdown between the Blue Devils and No. 7 Cavaliers. Duke dealt Virginia its first loss of the season last year in Charlottesville behind the clutch play of Tyus Jones, and could move back into the top 25 with another marquee win in Cameron Indoor's 1,001st game Saturday.
Following its big win Monday against Louisville, the Blue Devils continue their four-game gauntlet with a stiff test against No. 7 Virginia. The Cavaliers enter the game on a seven-game win streak and will bring their tenacious defense to Cameron Indoor Stadium looking for revenge after a close loss to Duke a year ago. Before each game, the Chronicle takes a look at one player from each team who could be the difference maker in Duke's upcoming contest:
Duke: guard Luke Kennard
Since the start of conference play, the freshman guard has averaged 14.3 points per game, including 26 big points last Saturday against N.C. State. Against a much stiffer and more aggressive Louisville defense Monday night, Kennard played only 20 minutes, but scored 11 points in his limited action. The road doesn't get any easier for the Blue Devils as the ACC's top scoring defense visits Durham. The Cavaliers have held their last four opponents to 50 or fewer points and on the season, they are forcing over a dozen turnovers per game. Read more »
A year ago, Duke's win against Virginia was one of the turning points of the season and propelled the Blue Devils to a strong close to conference play. Duke will look to replicate the outcome at Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday afternoon against the Cavaliers. Here are three keys to the game:
Find the range from deep
For the Blue Devils to upset No. 7 Virginia and its stout defense, Duke will have to firing on all cylinders. Only once in ACC play—a Jan. 6 win against Wake Forest—has the team shot less than 20 3-pointers, and it is no stretch to think that the Blue Devils will eclipse the 20-attempt mark against the Cavaliers. Considering Virginia only allows 21.7 points per game in the paint—the lowest among major conference teams—and Duke is still without big man Amile Jefferson, the Blue Devils will need to score in other ways to keep the game close.
This season, Duke has shot 39 percent from 3-point range, with several games in which the Blue Devils’ percentage has hovered near 50 percent. For Duke to pull of the upset Saturday and come away with a resume-boosting victory, it will need to have one of its better shooting days from beyond the arc. Read more »
With the All-Star break upon us, the Blue Zone takes a look at how some former Blue Devils have fared in recent games and their outlook going forward.
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
After a tough loss to the Boston Celtics last Friday, the Cleveland Cavaliers have pulled off three straight victories—all with standout performances from the former Duke guard. Irving has been on a tear for the team with an average of 32 points per game during the stretch. The former Blue Devil had 29 points against the New Orleans Pelicans, 32 points and 12 assists against the Sacramento Kings, and finally 35 points and 7 assists against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night. The guard's performance even up-staged the final chapter in the Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James rivalry. Irving and his teammates have fought off the adjustment to a new head coach in the middle of the season and appear to be gaining steam at just the right time.
Sam Turken: Obviously, it's unfortunate that it happened—Sirk won’t be able to participate in spring ball now, nor will he be able to play in the spring showcase April 9. His return to action in 2016 will depend on how his rehab goes—when he ruptured his right Achilles in April 2013, he redshirted the entire season, though he would have been the back-up to Anthony Boone anyways. When and if Sirk is able to come back fully healthy next season, I think he holds onto his starting job. Although backup Parker Boehme played well in several games this past season and will practice with the first team in the spring, Sirk’s athleticism, experience and intangibles will help him secure the position.
Seth Johnson: With Sirk facing another Achilles injury, Cutcliffe can look to four quarterbacks on the roster for the upcoming spring and leading into the fall. Boehme—a rising redshirt junior—stands out as the obvious candidate to work under center in Sirk’s absence, as the only backup with any in-game experience. Boehme was 43-for-78 through the air last season for 579 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, and was called upon 45 times on the ground for 181 yards and five touchdowns. Most of those numbers were picked up in two starts against Pittsburgh and at Virginia, when the Blue Devils dropped consecutive games, but Boehme seems the likely option without Sirk. Even if Sirk is ready by fall camp or the season, the biggest problem Duke faces is his lack of rapport with receivers and the offense that can be developed in the offseason. Boehme will have that opportunity, which could give him a higher stock as the likely starter next season. Read more »
Nearly halfway through conference play, Duke is sitting at 18-6 overall and 7-4 in ACC play. The team has turned it around after hitting a rough patch and appears to have hit its stride with big matchups against Virginia, North Carolina and Louisville looming. The Chronicle's men's basketball beat writers take a look at the storylines surrounding the Blue Devils.
After losing four of five games, Duke has won three straight games, including their first win against a ranked opponent Monday against Louisville. What has been the biggest improvement for the team in this recent stretch?
Ryan Hoerger: The improved play of Derryck Thornton has helped spark this team. Inserted back into the starting lineup Feb. 2 at Georgia Tech after several games coming off the bench, Thornton scored 15 points against the Yellow Jackets, followed by excellent defense on Anthony "Cat" Barber for most of the first half Feb. 6 against N.C. State. The freshman didn't score much Monday against Louisville, but hit a critical shot late in the shot clock to push the lead to eight with less than a minute to go. With Thornton starting, the Blue Devils have a more natural point guard on the floor, allowing guards Grayson Allen and Matt Jones to look for their shot rather than be creators and primary ball-handlers. It also creates a nice role for Luke Kennard coming off the bench as a pure scorer—not many teams have a guy that can go off for 30 points sitting with his warm-up on when the game tips off. Read more »
For many, life can be a series of misfortunes, regrets and mistakes. But for former Duke standout Jay Williams, as the title of his book says, life is not an accident.
Wednesday night at The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, Williams returned to the city where he spent his college days. He spoke with an audience of more than 100 people for nearly 45 minutes and then signed copies of his newly-published memoir, Life is Not An Accident. The book discusses Williams' near-miss with death in 2003, when he crashed his motorcycle into a pole, causing severe knee damage and essentially ending his basketball career.
As he explained, the almost four-year process of writing, editing and publishing a book went much deeper than simply putting words on a page.
"For a long time, I was held captive and I was chained to my own misery and my own past," Williams said. "It was not until I had truly had written this book and gone through the process over the last three-and-a-half to four years that now I finally feel like I'm in the present and I look forward to the future." Read more »
With nearly half of conference play behind them, the Blue Devils sit at 17-8 and 6-5 in the ACC. Duke has worked its way through injuries and early struggles to play better basketball in recent weeks. The Chronicle's women's basketball beat writers take a look at some of the storylines facing the team the rest of the way.
Duke is 1-1 playing without star forward Azurá Stevens, who tore her plantar fascia Feb. 1 against Notre Dame. Stevens is listed as day-to-day, but if the 6-foot-6 sophomore is out for the foreseeable future, how does this affect the Blue Devils on both ends of the floor?
Mitchell Gladstone: Without Stevens, the Blue Devils looked incredibly lost Sunday afternoon in Coral Gables. They mired through a nearly 16-minute field goal drought and shot just 12 percent from the field in the first half. The 6-foot-6 forward is a double-double machine and given that Duke relies on her for a large portion of its offense, they had a hard time keeping up with the No. 19 team in the country—falling to 0-5 against ranked opposition this season. Even though Stevens is a force on the defensive end, the Blue Devils can make up for her absence there. But without her talent on offense, Duke is at an incredible disadvantage as teams will be able to focus on just redshirt sophomore Rebecca Greenwell.
Drew Johnson: Stevens’ departure leaves a big hole in the paint that will need to be filled by the other forwards, namely Oderah Chidom and Amber Henson. The sophomore’s injury will also be felt by the team’s guards, who are now without their best post passing option. Stevens is a player who drew attention from opposing defenses and created open opportunities for the team's shooters, so expect her absence to have an impact on the wing players’ ability to find easy looks. Look for Erin Mathias to step into an enhanced role for the team, as the sophomore has averaged 14.5 minutes per game since Stevens’ injury—more than double her season average of 7.7 minutes per game. Read more »
The Chronicle's Jack Dolgin and Meredith Cash break down a down-to-the-wire victory for the Blue Devils, who went 10-of-12 from the foul line in the closing minutes to put away No. 13 Louisville for their first win against a ranked opponent this season. Grayson Allen scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half, and Duke went to Brandon Ingram down the stretch as a 6-foot-9 point guard, slashing through the lane to draw contact.
An undefeated conference leader falls and the standings continue to shift as another exciting week of ACC battles are behind us. The Blue Zone takes a look at the week for the teams in the ACC:
1. North Carolina (19-4, 8-2 in the ACC): The Tar Heels suffered back-to-back upsets to break their undefeated conference record and threaten their top spot in the conference. Forward Isaiah Hicks went 2-of-8 from the field in the team’s first loss of the week Monday night to No. 19 Louisville, and teammates Justin Jackson and Brice Johnson combined for just 7-of-23 shooting in South Bend as Notre Dame edged out the 80-76 upset Saturday. The team has the chance to rebound in this week’s matchups against Boston College and Pittsburgh before the first meeting with Tobacco Road rival Duke Feb. 17.
2. Virginia (19-4, 8-3): Malcolm Brogdon led the Cavaliers to two easy wins against Boston College and Pittsburgh, scoring almost half of his team’s total points in both affairs. Virginia got off to a slow start in a 61-47 win Wednesday, but a strong defensive effort held Eagles’ guard Eli Carter—averaging 17.3 before the game—to just seven points.
The team ranked fifth nationally in points allowed proceeded in appropriate style, giving up just 50 to a Panthers squad averaging 79 points per game. Virginia hopes to avenge its first ACC loss in its rematch against in-state rival Virginia Tech this week before traveling to Durham for a highly-touted matchup against Duke Saturday. Read more »