Duke and Miami have taken their share of lumps in ACC play, but escaping the next game could go a long way in expediting the healing process.
The 24th-ranked Blue Devils and No. 15 Hurricanes have each regrouped from losing streaks and will look to piece together some momentum when they meet in Coral Gables on Monday night.
Duke (15-5, 4-3) plays at Georgia Tech on Feb. 2 and at home against North Carolina State on Feb. 6, two of the ACC's bottom teams, leaving an opportunity for a push before a challenging stretch begins. The Blue Devils follow with games against No. 16 Louisville, No. 11 Virginia, No. 2 North Carolina and the Cardinals again.
But first they eye consecutive conference wins to wash away the taste of their first three-game ACC losing streak since February 2007.
Duke suffered conference losses at Clemson on Jan. 13 and at home against Notre Dame on Jan. 16 and Syracuse on Jan. 18, all by five points or fewer. The Blue Devils could finally exhale following Saturday's 88-78 win at NC State.
They shot 54.2 percent, their highest percentage since the ACC opener, fueled by 71 percent shooting in a 52-point second half. Duke made 7 of 11 3-pointers after the intermission and used a 14-0 run to take control.
''We realize as a team that we're not going to just wake up and win,'' said junior Matt Jones, who hit two 3-pointers during Duke's decisive run. ''You have to cherish moments like these and kind of just know it wasn't given, it was earned.''
Life has been difficult since senior forward Amile Jefferson fractured a bone in his right foot in a mid-December practice, leaving the Blue Devils with a six-man rotation. Jefferson averaged 11.4 points and 10.3 rebounds in the first nine games, and Duke has struggled to replace his production on the boards. The Blue Devils were outrebounded in each game of their losing streak but held a 31-28 advantage against the Wolfpack.
Miami holds a plus-5.8 rebound differential while the Blue Devils are at plus-3.4.
Sophomore Grayson Allen and freshman Brandon Ingram have carried the offensive load. Allen made 11 of 17 shots for 28 points against NC State, while Ingram added 25 on 10-of-16 shooting. Allen has averaged 21.4 points while shooting 56.6 percent in the last eight games, and Ingram has averaged 20.4 points on 52.8 percent shooting in the last 13.
Duke is the only ACC team with two players averaging at least 17 points, with Allen the league's second-leading scorer at 20.5 - behind only NC State's Anthony Barber (22.1) - and Ingram at 17.1.
A grueling three-game road trip turned into the first two conference losses for Miami (15-3, 4-2) with defeats at then-No. 13 Virginia and Clemson two weeks ago. But the Hurricanes closed the trip with Wednesday's 67-53 victory at Boston College and followed with Saturday's 77-63 home win over Wake Forest - the Hurricanes' seventh straight at BankUnited Center.
Coach Jim Larranaga has used music to try and loosen up his team following its skid, playing Bobby McFerrin's ''Don't Worry, Be Happy'' on Friday and Pharrell Williams' ''Happy'' for them before tipoff Saturday.
''We're trying to encourage them,'' Larranaga said. ''But they're probably not happy until the game is over and they know they've won.''
The Hurricanes play at NC State on Jan. 30, host a good Notre Dame team on Feb. 3 and play at Georgia Tech on Feb. 7.