Coming off a solid road win Tuesday against Wake Forest, Duke will return home Saturday in an attempt to take down the lone undefeated team remaining in conference play in a marquee matchup.

The fourth-ranked Blue Devils will look to add another signature win to their resume when they battle with No. 2 Virginia Saturday at 2 p.m. in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The matchup will mark the first top-five battle in Durham since Feb. 22, 2014, when then-No. 5 Duke defeated then-No. 1 Syracuse 66-60 after Orange head coach Jim Boeheim was ejected in the final minute for charging onto the court to dispute a call. 

The Blue Devils enter Saturday's contest with hopes of extending their five-game conference winning streak. Following a disappointing 1-2 start to conference play— during which Duke allowed its opponents to score more than 92 points per contest—the Blue Devils have found their rhythm with more use of a zone defense, preventing each opponent from surpassing the 75-point plateau in their winning streak.

“We’re getting better defensively,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said after his team’s victory against Wake Forest Tuesday. “We’ve just practiced like crazy with our footwork. They’re a young team—we didn’t have all that practice before. We had games and then breaks.”

The Blue Devils' improved defense has been a key component to their recent ability to pull away from opponents, rather than let them hang around late in contests. With adequate defense, Duke (17-2, 6-2 in the ACC) has been able to capitalize on having the nation’s top scoring offense at 91.7 points per contest and faces an intriguing matchup against the nation’s strongest defensive unit. The Cavaliers surrender an average of just 51.6 points per contest—five fewer than the second-best defensive team. 

Virginia (19-1, 8-0) has allowed its opponents to score more than 60 points in just three of its 20 games this season, and has never allowed more than 70, but the Blue Devils have never failed to reach that mark. And the Cavaliers have been unable to get a win against the Blue Devils in the last three seasons, usually due to an inability to create enough offense against fast-paced Duke teams.

Virginia could find itself in trouble again this time around, facing a strong size disadvantage against the Blue Devils' dominant interior of freshmen Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. The duo has combined for 36.0 points per game and 20.7 rebounds per contest on the season.

Hank Tucker

The Cavaliers boast just three players taller than 6-foot-7 on their roster, and though their vaunted pack-line defense is built to clog the paint, they could find themselves in trouble against the nation’s third-best offensive rebounding team in Duke. At the other end of the floor, the Blue Devils will need to do a better job grabbing defensive boards off 3-pointers Saturday than they did against Wake Forest, when they were outrebounded by six.

“When you have long shots, there are longer rebounds,” Krzyzewski said. “We rely a lot on our big guys rebounding, and those balls sometimes go 12 feet from the bucket. Our perimeter has to get down there.”

Getting rebounds and maintaining possession will be especially important against a methodical, slow-paced offensive team like Virginia. The Cavaliers tend to move the ball and search for one of their 3-point specialists in order to generate offense. 

Sophomores Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome and senior Devon Hall have each made more than 42 percent of their shots from beyond the arc on the season, and a long offensive rebound off a missed three could potentially lead to a minute-long possession for the Cavaliers, who play at the slowest tempo of all 351 Division I teams.

For the Blue Devils to make the most of their limited possessions and exploit their size advantage, they will need to continue to get offensive production from the perimeter in order to space the Virginia defense, which helps into the paint to try to force contested jump shots. 

Freshman Gary Trent Jr.—last week’s co-ACC Player of the Week—has been a difference maker for the Blue Devils amid senior captain Grayson Allen’s recent struggles. In his last four contests, Trent has averaged 21.3 points while shooting an efficient 67.9 percent from beyond the arc.

“The kid who has been unbelievable has been Gary,” Krzyzewski said last Saturday following Duke’s victory over Pittsburgh. “The kid has been playing like a senior. So poised, he’s letting the game come to him. He’s really playing well.” 

Following the Blue Devils' top-five matchup Saturday, Duke will face a rapid two-day turnaround before taking on Notre Dame Monday night at home in an attempt to carry its recent success into the second half of ACC play.