Bennett: ‘What an opportunity,’ in tonight’s game at Duke

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: Duke Athletics

Tony Bennett knows the challenge ahead of his Virginia team tonight when they play at Cameron Indoor Stadium against the nation’s 10th-ranked team (6 p.m., ESPN).

“We’re going to have to be as ready as we can and play a sound and tough-minded game,” Bennett said about playing at Duke. “It will be a new situation and a new environment for a lot of our guys, but what an opportunity for us to go in and try to carry on.”

Virginia (21-8, 12-6 ACC) is a 9.5-point underdog at Duke, (22-6, 13-4). However, recent history says that it could be a close matchup, with seven of the last nine meetings between the two decided by four points or less.

UVA won at Duke in 2022 on a Reece Beekman 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds to play. The Cavaliers, who lost to the Blue Devils in last season’s ACC Tournament, beat Duke in Charlottesville earlier in the year, snuffing out big man Kyle Filipowski.

Virginia is coming off a hard-fought win at Boston College on Wednesday night, a game in which the Cavaliers tweaked their starting lineup and their offense to force BC to defend differently. Look for Bennett to go with that same starting lineup tonight, with Jake Groves getting the nod over Andrew Rohde in order to pack a little more firepower.

Duke isn’t the same as it was a week ago when starting freshman guard Caleb Foster suffered a foot injury at Wake Forest. The Devils went with another three-guard lineup against Louisville midweek with Tyrese Proctor, Jeremy Roach and freshman Jared McCain, along with Filipowski and sophomore forward Mark Michell.

T.J. Power, who chose Duke over UVA in an intense recruiting battle, will likely see playing time at power forward.

Virginia is hoping its success on the road will carry over after BC. The Cavaliers have been shaky on the road, scoring 49.5 points and shooting 35.7 percent in road losses, but scoring 72.4 points and shooting 44 percent in road wins.

UVA is third in the ACC heading into the contest (Duke is second) and projected as a No. 10 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. The Cavaliers have a NET ranking of 46 (Duke is 13).