Virginia ready to challenge Duke

DURHAM, N.C. — 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 today.

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 out indefinitely.

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 have a productive offense to match.

“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 has been 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.