This is the annual point in the season for Duke when it gets hard to stay focused on basketball.

The No. 3 Blue Devils are in the middle of the last week of class in the fall semester, preparing final papers, projects and presentations and getting ready for exams next week, and while they're at it, they have to prepare for a matchup with an unimpressive Hartford team Wednesday night at 7 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. But Duke is still hoping to use this stretch to improve, with a matchup against No. 13 Texas Tech and ACC play on the horizon right after exams end.

"The biggest thing is you can never take anything for granted. Almost every morning it seems like, you wake up and you look on ESPN at the ticker, and someone got upset. Our thing is we definitely don’t want that to be us," junior captain Javin DeLaurier said. "Guys have done a pretty good job of taking it one step at a time and not looking past anyone."

It would take more than a miracle for the Blue Devils (7-1) to lose at home to the Hawks, who are a cut above the lowly Stetson team Duke beat by 64 Saturday but still not in the same league as the Blue Devils. Still, there were a few meaningful takeaways from Duke's victory against the overmatched Hatters, including another impressive defensive effort.

The Blue Devils have now held two opponents to fewer than 50 points, matching their number of times they did so all of last season. Duke's ball pressure in its man-to-man defense is far better than it ever was last year, when it resorted exclusively to zone for the last month of the season, and the Blue Devils are using turnovers to generate easy offensive opportunities.

"When you have a younger or more inexperienced group, habits are not completely there unless you’re doing them daily. Since we’ve been back [from Maui], we’ve been trying to get back into our defensive habits," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said after Saturday's game. "We’re getting there. We’re good, and we’re going to get better as long as we’re healthy because we’re going to keep working at it."

Duke's improvement on defense has started with freshman point guard Tre Jones, who has terrorized opposing ball handlers and already elicited comparisons from Krzyzewski to former Blue Devil greats like Bobby Hurley, Steve Wojciechowski and Chris Duhon. Jones didn't score any of Duke's 113 points Saturday, but still made a notable impact with three steals and seven assists.

"It really makes the whole thing come together, makes everything else’s job easier, especially when teams aren’t used to facing ball pressure for 94 feet or for every second that Tre’s in the game," DeLaurier said. "You know what he’s going to give you and that really bothers people."

The Stetson game was also Jones' third contest of the year with at least seven assists and no turnovers, matching the most in a single season in program history.

"For people who don’t know basketball, Tre probably has the most important role for our team," freshman Zion Williamson said. "Orientation week, we’d play pickup because we didn’t have practice yet, and Tre would get the ball and he’d push up the court and make plays.... There was one time where on a fast break, he dunked on one of the bigs, and it was like, 'Tre, where is this coming from?' It was orientation week where I knew he was very special."

Hartford (3-6) is the Blue Devils' last remaining opponent outside the top 200 on, though the experienced Hawks will provide a slightly stiffer challenge offensively. Hartford starts five seniors and has four averaging double figures in scoring, led by 6-foot-8 forward John Carroll averaging 18.1 points per game.

None of the Hawks' starters are taller than 6-foot-8, though, and they have been outrebounded by an average of 7.8 boards per game so far this season. Duke should have another field day on the glass after beating Stetson 52-31 in boards.

There is one area Hartford is significantly better than the Blue Devils, though—the free-throw line. The Hawks' 76.9 percent clip on free throws puts them in the top 30 in the nation, while in this category, Duke is the team outside the top 200.