After playing games in front of two sellout crowds at home in the span of seven days, No. 2 Duke had a full week off before Monday night's 73-62 win at Virginia Tech.
Though the game was never in doubt in the second half, the Blue Devils (21-1, 8-1 in the ACC) learned that conference play-whether in the limelight or not-will remain tough.
"I think we need to be consistent and play with a lot of heart," senior Monique Currie said. "There are a lot of talented teams out there so we want to get what separates us from other teams. Having a lot of heart and being consistent are two things that could take us far."
Duke's next obstacle is Virginia, which the Blue Devils play tonight at 7 p.m. in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Virginia (13-8, 2-7) dropped only one of its first 12 regular season games, to then-No. 12 Minnesota. Despite the hot start, the young Cavaliers have struggled to adjust to ACC competition, and are currently in the midst of a four-game losing streak.
"I think that this team with so many young players having to play big roles, we're not quite prepared for the intensity of the ACC," Virginia head coach Debbie Ryan said. "It's just totally different from what they've seen early in the season with non-conference games in terms of intensity."
Ryan has stressed the importance of toughness to her squad. She attributed the team's Jan. 16 win over Virginia Tech to intense defensive play.
She said that when her team plays aggressive defense like that, it has the chance to win.
To demonstrate her point, Ryan sat starting sophomore guard Takisha Granberry during part of the Feb. 2 Virginia Tech game.
"I really wanted Takisha to take a look at the defensive end of the court from the bench for a little while and then go in and make a difference," Ryan said. "I think Takisha plays a much better game when she's playing solid defense. She finds her offense a little bit better. She's a rhythm player."
For a team that relies on defense to generate offensive momentum, the Cavaliers could struggle against a Blue Devil defense that only allows 62.1 points per game, which is second best in the ACC.
The Cavalier defense must also deal with the Blue Devil offense, which is No. 2 in the ACC at 80.3 points per game.
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