Duke may have been the final college basketball team to play a true road game this season but the Blue Devils have proven able to handle any setting.
The No. 2-ranked Blue Devils have five wins without a loss on an opponent’s home court, including Saturday night’s 81-71 win at No. 4 Virginia.
Another tough road test awaits Tuesday night when Duke (21-2, 9-1 ACC) faces No. 16 Louisville (17-7, 8-3 ACC) at the KFC Yum! Center for a 9 p.m. game.
In addition to winning at Virginia, Duke also won 80-78 at Florida State on Jan. 12 when the Seminoles were ranked No. 13 in the Associated Press Top 25.
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Sellout crowds regularly pack opposing arenas when Duke comes to town, creating festive, often hostile atmospheres. Last season, Duke lost ACC road games at Boston College, N.C. State, North Carolina and Virginia Tech.
This season’s Blue Devils, featuring four freshmen starters, are already ensured of having a winning record away from home in ACC play.
“I think our preparation is good,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Monday. “We’ve been a good traveling team. They’ve been really good as far as attention on the road. This group, they’d rather play in a loud environment than a quiet one. Some teams don’t like that. I think this group, they like it.”
Quick starts to quiet opposing crowds have marked Duke’s last two road wins.
On Jan. 28 at Notre Dame, Duke built leads of 17-2 and 26-7 in an 83-61 win over the Irish at Purcell Pavilion.
On Saturday night at Virginia, the Blue Devils scored the game’s first eight points and never trailed while beating the Cavaliers for the second time this season.
Perimeter shooting played a big role in both wins. A 32 percent 3-point shooting team for the season, Duke made 10 of 19 (52.6 percent) at Notre Dame and 13 of 21 (61.9 percent) at Virginia.
“I don’t think anything is complicated with Duke,” Louisville coach Chris Mack said Monday. “They are who they are. It makes the job harder when they shoot at such a high level. The task is already hard enough, their talent level impressive, their attitude, their hard work impressive. They play with such high motors. They are the best team in the country when they play like the did on Saturday. That doesn’t make our job any easier.”
Here are three other things to watch when the Blue Devils and Cardinals play on Tuesday night:
Cam Reddish coming on
The 6-8 freshman forward has made 16 of 37 3-pointers (43.3 percent) during Duke’s last three games to improve his season average from behind the arc to 35.3 percent.
He made 5 of 8 at Virginia while scoring 17 points. He’s on a streak of four consecutive games scoring in double figures.
In December and January, he put together a stretch of eight games where he only scored more than 10 points once.
Extra shooting work is paying off, he said. He worked particularly hard practicing his shots at game speed in between games rather than just getting extra shots up at a slower pace.
“I’ve been in the gym lately a lot, more so than usual,” Reddish said. “I can’t even explain how much. I’ll continue to do that and trust God and just be me.”
Offense or defense?
Duke’s shooting prowess lately is drawing attention but Mack said the biggest concern is how the Blue Devils defend.
“I think the bigger issue is your offense,” Mack said, “because so much of what Duke creates is from their defense, whether it’s a blocked shot at the basket because of their superior make-up ability, their ability to get in passing lanes and be disruptive.
“While I give them great credit as an offensive team, a team that plays very unselfish, you are much better served playing 5-on-5 than you are watching a 1-on-0 break the other way. Our ability to take care of the ball and get good shots against a defense that’s as impressive as any team in the country is paramount in my mind.”
According to KenPom.com, Duke is No. 1 in the country in two defensive metrics -- steal percentage and blocked shot percentage. The Blue Devils record steals on 14.1 percent of opponents’ possessions and block 17.8 percent of their shots.
Aiming for an ACC crown
Duke won the ACC tournament in 2017 but hasn’t finished first in the league’s regular-season race since 2010.
The Blue Devils were tied with North Carolina for first place in the ACC standings prior to UNC’s home game with Virginia on Monday night.
Virginia, last year’s ACC champion, is in tiebreaker trouble against the Blue Devils because of Duke’s two wins over the Cavaliers.
In addition to playing at Louisville, Duke also has road games at North Carolina, Syracuse and Virginia Tech among its final eight regular-season games. The home game with North Carolina on Feb. 20 also looms.
Duke freshman Zion Williamson said the key to continuing the team’s current seven-game winning streak is to “just keep playing harder than other teams and just keep playing sharp.”