01/18 11:30 CST Without Jones, No. 1 Duke braces for visit from No. 4 UVa
Without Jones, No. 1 Duke braces for visit from No. 4 UVa
By JOEDY McCREARY
AP Sports Writer
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) --- Top-ranked Duke hopes its team defense doesn't slip
without point guard Tre Jones --- for however long he's out.
The Blue Devils were just getting back to playing the kind of tough man-to-man
defense that had been their trademark after several years of struggles. Now
they're hoping they'll be good enough on that end of the floor when they host
defensive-minded Virginia on Saturday.
Jones injured his right shoulder in a loss earlier this week to Syracuse, and
while coach Mike Krzyzewski told The Athletic that it doesn't appear to be a
long-term injury, team spokesman Mike DeGeorge said Friday that Jones remains
His likely absence might be magnified because the Blue Devils (14-2, 3-1) are
going up against the Atlantic Coast Conference's model of defensive efficiency
--- the fourth-ranked Cavaliers (16-0, 4-0), who now has a productive offense
"We just have confidence in everyone that they can step up and lock in on that
end," Duke co-captain Jack White said. "The good news about our team, everyone
loves to play defense. Everyone takes pride in locking up and they know the
effect it can have on our team."
While most of the attention on this Duke team has gone to possible top-five NBA
draft picks Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cameron Reddish for their
performance on offense, a major part of Duke's success is Jones' play at the
other end of the floor.
His pressure on the opponent's primary ball handler has been critical in making
Duke difficult to score against.
Jones has had five three-steal games, including four in the 5 minutes before
he was hurt against Syracuse. He was so relentless against Texas Tech that
coach Chris Beard instructed his players to pass to a teammate instead of
bringing the ball up against Jones, who had six steals in that game.
"Tre, obviously ... he's an incredibly hard guy to replace," Duke co-captain
Javin DeLaurier said. "But when we talk (on defense), we're so athletic and
long, we fully have the capability to remain an elite defense, although we will
miss his services greatly."
Jones was hurt when he collided with Syracuse's Frank Howard while picking up
his fourth steal. The school said Jones suffered an AC joint separation --- in
that kind of injury, the collar bone separates from the shoulder blade --- and
had no timetable for his return, though Krzyzewski said he'd be "out for a
In the roughly 40 minutes after Jones' injury, Syracuse outscored Duke by 12
points and shot 45 percent. The Orange's 95 points was a season high allowed by
the Blue Devils, who dropped a full spot to No. 4 in Ken Pomeroy's defensive
They certainly hope they don't further regress while he's out.
It's fair to say Duke's defense had slipped in recent years. Even Duke's last
national title team --- led by Tre's older brother Tyus --- was occasionally
leaky before it found solid footing in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
The Brandon Ingram-led team in 2015-16 finished the season ranked 86th in
defensive efficiency, and Jayson Tatum's group a year later was 47th. Last
year's team with Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. appeared on a similar
trajectory before a midseason switch to a 2-3 zone helped them wind up ninth
and reach the Elite Eight.
Now comes a test from a Virginia team that ranks fourth in offensive efficiency
and has scored 97 or more points twice this season --- that, after scoring in
the 90s only twice in its previous nine seasons under coach Tony Bennett.
There's been no such fluctuation for Virginia's defense, which is ranked second
in defensive efficiency this season after finishing each of the previous five
years in the top 10. The Cavaliers came into Cameron Indoor Stadium a year ago
and held the nation's top offense nearly 30 points below its scoring average in
a 65-63 victory that put them in control of the ACC. Now they're preparing for
a Duke team playing its first full game without its starting point guard.
"We've played well, we've shot it well and ... defended pretty solid," Bennett
said. "And your reward for that is, you get to go to Duke next. That's the
reward. ... The league will test you, but obviously, I like how we've stood so
So defense figures to again be at a premium in this matchup --- which means the
Blue Devils have to find a way to replace Jones' pressure, whether that's with
backup Jordan Goldwire or with Barrett sliding over to fill his on-the-ball
"It's going to be a fight on both ends of the floor," White said.
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