The Blue Devils will travel to to play No. 14 Virginia Wednesday night in search of their sixth straight win and their third straight against a ranked opponent. Duke has outlasted the Cavaliers in instant classics the last two years, and this matchup is another one with a lot of postseason implications, as both teams are tied in the ACC standings. Here are three keys to success for the Blue Devils.
Knock Down 3-Pointers
Virginia is known for its stifling pack line defense that attempts to cut off penetration and force opponents to beat it from the perimeter. The Cavaliers have held opponents to 39.3 percent shooting from the field and a suffocating 31.6 percent clip from beyond the arc this season. Knocking down triples is the key to unlocking Virginia, though, since it forces the Cavaliers to extend the defense and opens up interior lanes.
Duke possesses a plethora of 3-point shooters like Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard and Matt Jones, who will need to be on their A-game if the Blue Devils are to do well offensively against the nation's top scoring defense. The Blue Devils have made at least 11 triples in each of their last three games and will look to continue the hot shooting Wednesday night.
Limit London Perrantes
Everything Virginia does offensively runs through its senior point guard. Perrantes is a stabilizing force that sets the table offensively and is also capable of creating his own shot. He is the Cavaliers' leading scorer, averaging 12.7 points per game, and slowing him down would go a long way toward stifling Virginia, which is not known for its offense and has no other player averaging double figures in scoring.
Perrantes is also the Cavaliers' leader in assists with 3.9 per game and helps set a slow pace of play. Jones, Duke’s defensive specialist, will likely be tapped to guard Perrantes man-to-man, but it will take a whole team effort to stop the Los Angeles native.
Get Out in Transition
One way to beat Virginia is to attack its defense before it can get set up. This means pushing the ball after rebounds and trying to get fast-break points off turnovers, which could provide an opportunity for freshman Frank Jackson—one the Blue Devils' most athletic players—to play increased minutes. Jackson could be tasked with attacking Perrantes on offense as well, forcing the Virginia point guard to work hard defensively in an attempt to wear him down.
Pushing the ball negates much of the power of the Cavalier defense later in the shot clock and will be key in Duke’s effort to pull off the road win. This is one of the few things the Blue Devils have failed to do during their five-game winning streak, with no more than four fast-break points in any of the wins, and it will not get any easier against a Virginia team that very rarely turns the ball over.