The No. 16 Cavaliers got away with scoring just 52 points Saturday against Miami and still came away with a win, but 52 points most likely will not be sufficient against a Blue Devils squad that has not lost at Cameron Indoor Stadium in its past 43 home games and has not lost at home to Virginia since 1995.
So the most obvious key for the Cavaliers tonight will be to give Scott – the team’s leading scorer – some help in terms of offensive production. That means sophomore guard Joe Harris and fifth-year senior guard Sammy Zeglinski need to shoot more accurately, to be sure.
But it also means Virginia will need another strong performance from junior guard Jontel Evans. This season, Evans has displayed vastly improved decision-making skills, particularly when darting into the lane. He’s also added a nifty floater to his shooting arsenal.
Evans is averaging just six points per game thus far this season but he’s shooting a career-best 48.6 percent. Again, that points to his improved decision-making. He’s not just hoisting up shots for the sake of hoisting up shots, as seemed to be the case at times last season. Evans is getting himself into advantageous positions and making the shots he takes count.
He also owns a 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio and is averaging 3.5 assists per game, which is tied for No. 5 in the ACC.
While Evans’s defensive prowess has been evident for some time, his offensive contributions may be what make the biggest difference Thursday at Duke, according to former Virginia point guard Cory Alexander.
“What Duke does, and what Coach [Krzyzewski] has made a living off of for the last 35-plus years, they take you out of your offense,” said Alexander, who now serves as a regional college basketball television analyst. “And what Virginia has to have is guys who are willing to make plays individually. . . . That’s what Jontel Evans has been doing much better. Mike Scott can do that.
“That creates opportunities, if you beat a guy and they help, kicking it out to Sammy and Joe on the exterior. Those are the ways that they can be successful. I think [Evans] is going to have to make a lot of plays individually, beating his man and getting in the lane and causing havoc.”
Evans doesn’t necessarily have to have a big scoring night against the Blue Devils in order for Virginia to earn its first victory at Cameron since Jan. 14, 1995, but he does need to be effective at doing what he has done best on offense this season: using his dynamic quickness to penetrate toward the basket and make solid decisions on whether to create a shot for one of his teammates or attempt his own.