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February 28, 2013Virginia battles No. 3 Duke tonight at John Paul Jones Arena for a 9 p.m. game that is already sold out and will be televised nationally by ESPN.
Virginia (19-8) is tied for third in the ACC with a 9-5 record, while Duke (24-3) is second at 11-3.
The Cavaliers, who have won 15 straight games at JPJ this season, are looking to snap their eight-game losing streak against the Blue Devils.
Virginia's last win against Duke was a 68-66 overtime decision on Feb. 1, 2007 at JPJ. The Cavaliers are also aiming for their first win against a top-5 opponent since an 87-84 win over No. 3 Duke on Feb. 28, 2002.
Virginia ended its two-game losing streak with an 82-54 win over Georgia Tech Sunday, while Duke has won two straight games after beating Boston College, 89-68, on Sunday.
The Hoos are 48-115 all-time against Duke in a series that dates back to 1910-11. Virginia is 33-37 against the Blue Devils in Charlottesville, including a 1-3 mark at JPJ. The Cavaliers are 1-17 in their last 18 games vs. Duke.
Virginia ranks in the top seven nationally in five defensive categories, highlighted by its fourth-ranked scoring defense at 54 points per game. Offensively Virginia has scored 70 or more points in five of its last six games and is averaging 65 points per game, shooting 47 percent from the field and a school-best 40 percent from 3-point land.
Junior guard Joe Harris ranks fourth in the ACC in scoring at 16.6 points per game and is the only player in the league to rank in the top 10 in 3-point field goal percentage (1st), field goal percentage (5th) and free throw percentage (8th). Harris has led Virginia in scoring in seven of the last eight games.
Junior forward Akil Mitchell is averaging a career-high 12.6 points per game and ranks third in the ACC with a career-best 8.7 rebounds per game. Senior point guard Jontel Evans is averaging 5.3 assists per game.
Both are coming off impressive efforts last time out: Mitchell had a game-high 18 points and eight rebounds in the 28-point win over Georgia Tech while Evans added 10 points and a game-high eight assists while committing zero turnovers.
Freshman Justin Anderson is averaging 10.2 points per game since being inserted into the starting lineup on Feb. 7 against Clemson. Sophomore Paul Jesperson has made at least one 3-pointer in seven consecutive games and is averaging 8.6 points per over the past five games.
Freshman Evan Nolte has added 6.7 points off the bench, while fellow first-year Mike Tobey returned to action against Georgia Tech after missing five games with mononucleosis. Their classmate Taylor Barnette (Lexington, Ky.), who scored nine points on three 3-pointers against Georgia Tech, is 9-of-13 (69.2 percent) from 3-point range in ACC play.
Head coach Tony Bennett sports a 72-49 record, including an 0-5 mark against Duke, in four seasons at Virginia. Bennett guided the Cavaliers to their first NCAA Tournament since 2006-07 last season.
The Blue Devils are averaging an ACC-leading 77.8 points per game while allowing 67.7. Duke boasts two of the top three scorers in the ACC in seniors Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry, who played for Virginia associate head coach Ritchie McKay at Liberty in 2008-09.
Plumlee ranks second in the ACC in scoring (17.5 per) and rebounding (10.7), while Curry ranks third in scoring at 16.8. Duke is 9-3 without senior Ryan Kelly who is out indefinitely with an injury.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski has amassed a 951-294 record in 38 seasons as a collegiate head coach. He is 878-235 in 33 seasons at Duke. He led the Blue Devils to NCAA championships in 1990, 1991, 2001 and 2010.