The No. 18 Cavaliers will travel to Durham, N.C. today to face the No. 6 Blue Devils. Virginia is riding a 16-game losing streak against Duke and has not won in Durham since 1997.
The team enters the contest after dropping a tight game at home against Florida State Monday, falling 59-58. During that game, Virginia raced to a 22-6 lead, only to close the first half by giving up a 22-4 run to the Seminoles. The squad later battled back from a 57-50 deficit to take the lead with 20 seconds remaining, but two clutch free throws by Florida State buried the Cavaliers in the end.
"We can't let these heartbreakers haunt us forever," senior guard Monica Wright said. "Games like this have a tendency to come back up."
Letdowns against good teams have resurfaced repeatedly for the Cavaliers. They have a 1-4 record against ranked teams this season, with the sole win coming in double overtime versus North Carolina last week.
If Virginia finds itself in another close contest against Duke, it will look to do a better job protecting the ball on offense and staying alert on defense. Lethargic play on both ends let Florida State back into the game when the Cavaliers had the chance to shut the door early.
"We can't take possessions off," Wright said. "Every possession is very valuable."
Wright leads the Cavaliers on offense and leads the entire ACC in scoring, averaging 22.7 points per game. The Blue Devils' top scorer, junior guard Jasmine Thomas, is averaging 15.7 points, along with 4.1 assists. Both players are top-30 candidates for the Naismith Trophy this year.
Each team's supporting cast also will look to play a key role in the contest tonight. Sophomore forward Chelsea Shine and sophomore guard Ariana Moorer are the two leading Virginia scorers after Wright, averaging 8.2 and 7.3 points per game, respectively. The Blue Devils, meanwhile, sport five players averaging more than eight points per game.
Virginia currently finds itself in third place in the ACC and will travel to Greensboro, N.C. March 4 to begin ACC Championship play.
"There's still a lot to play for," Virginia coach Debbie Ryan said. "We have come a long way with a very young team"