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The Blue Devils are “the only team we haven’t beaten my whole career,” Virginia guard Jontel Evans said.
Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon (right) is the ACC’s second-leading freshman scorer.
Duke coach Mike Kryzewski says Virginia is “a really good basketball team.”
Coach Tony Bennett is 0-5 against Duke during his four seasons at UVa.
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Something will have to give tonight at John Paul Jones Arena, where two noteworthy streaks will be on the line when Virginia entertains third-ranked Duke at 9 p.m.
The Cavaliers (19-8, 9-5 ACC) have won 15 consecutive home games since a Nov. 13 loss to Delaware, 59-53 in the NIT Season Tip-Off.
On the other hand, Virginia has lost 21 consecutive games against teams ranked in The Associated Press top five.
Tony Bennett has not beaten a top-five opponent in four seasons as head coach, nor did predecessor Dave Leitao in his four seasons.
Pete Gillen was the coach when UVa defeated then-No. 3 Duke 87-84 in 2002.
“It’s the only team we haven’t beaten my whole career,” said UVa senior point guard Jontel Evans, who has lost to the Blue Devils five times, four when they were in the top five and the fifth when they were ranked eighth last season.
UVa has announced that the game will be sold out, its first sellout since a crowd of 14,273 turned out last season for a late-February game with North Carolina.
“It’s going to be bananas,” Evans said. “It’s going to be electric, crazy. Any adjective you want to use, that’s how it’s going to be.”
Less than 48 hours after tipoff tonight, the Blue Devils (24-3, 11-3) will entertain sixth-ranked Miami, a 90-63 winner over then-No. 1 Duke earlier this season in Coral Gables, Fla.
On the ACC coaches weekly Monday teleconference, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was quick to deflect questions about the return match with Miami.
“Know what, I’m not looking at Miami right now,” he said. “I didn’t watch their [Saturday loss] against Wake Forest. I don’t really know who they are currently. We haven’t played them for a while. I’m not a good guy to comment on Miami.”
He was effusive in his praise of the Cavaliers, whom the Blue Devils are facing for the first time this season.
“In watching tape of them, they’re just a really good basketball team,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s a team that fans would like. [Joe] Harris is really one of the better players in the country. He’s a warrior.
“He reminds me of [Kyle] Singler as far as toughness. They’re a little bit different players … but they play every play. He’s [Harris] terrific. He’s one of my favorite players that I’ve watched, not just in our confererence, but around the country.”
Singler, a 6-foot-8, 230-pounder now in his second season with the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, was a two-time first-team All-ACC player for the Blue Devils, as well as the MVP of the 2011 NCAA Final Four.
“Having Harris, [Akil] Mitchell and Evans as upperclassmen, you have a point, a great player in Harris and Mitchell, who is having a terrific year,” Krzyzewski said. “You have stability [and] high performance in three key areas.
“When you are a freshman, in a home environment, you’re playing with some good players, guys who are winners. I mean, I really like Virginia’s team. I think they’re real good.”
Each of Virginia’s five scholarship freshmen has started at least one game. Duke’s first-year class isn’t as deep but, in 6-4 Rasheed Sulaimon, the Blue Devils boast the reigning ACC freshman of the week and, with 12.4 points per game, the ACC’s second-leading freshman scorer behind Olivier Hanlan of Boston College.
Don’t be surprised to see Sulaimon on Harris at some stage.
“He’s the tallest guy of our first four guys on the perimeter,” Kryzewski said. “He gets matchups that are tough matchups and has done well. He’s had a great year for any player, but, as a freshman, it’s been terrific.”
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