The Blue Devils will make the short trip to Raleigh to take on N.C. State Saturday at 8 p.m. looking to give themselves a winning record in the ACC. No. 2 Duke downed then-No. 24 Florida State in its last contest, but struggled mightily on defense. The Blue Zone gives three keys for the Blue Devils to come out on top: 

Dominate the paint

With two prolific forwards in Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr., the Blue Devils have capably dominated down low throughout the season. Against an N.C. State team with weaker perimeter shooting than Florida State and Boston College, the battle will shift more to the post than it has in recent contests. 

While Duke has significantly outscored opponents in the paint throughout the season, a sizable margin in this game in particular will go a long way in avoiding a second straight upset at the hands of the Wolfpack. At seven feet, sophomore center Omer Yurtseven will have the size to compete with Bagley and Carter in the post. Whether or not Yurtseven and forward Lennard Freeman can make an impact could be a deciding factor Saturday. 

Get a lead early and hold it

While easier said than done, the Blue Devils have consistently battled back from deficits throughout the season. Sometimes, as seen in every game of the PK80 Invitational, the team’s efforts have been rewarded. Other times, as seen against Boston College, Duke’s luck runs out. 

In both conference contests this season, the Blue Devils entered halftime trailing—Florida State had a four-point lead over Duke and the Eagles entered intermission with a seven-point advantage. Against a weaker Wolfpack side, it will be imperative to get a lead early on the road and hold it throughout the contest, especially given N.C. State’s come-from-behind victory last season in Cameron will be fresh in the minds of both teams. 

Let Trent and Allen shoot

In its two conference games, N.C. State has significantly lost the battle at the 3-point line. The Wolfpack enter Saturday’s matchup shooting just 27.5 percent from the floor over two conference games, while their opponents have shot 40.9 percent. 

After two quiet games against Evansville and the Seminoles for both Gary Trent Jr. and Grayson Allen, Saturday’s contest is a perfect opportunity for the duo to regain their form and take some of the focus off of Bagley III and Carter Jr. down low. On the other side of the ball, Allen, Trent and the rest of the Blue Devil defense need to tighten it up at the perimeter—both of Duke's ACC foes have made 15 threes.