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Luke Kennard missed all his shots from the field Friday night, but played significant minutes down ...

Key 3: Duke men's basketball vs. Georgetown



After grinding out a 79-71 win Friday against Virginia Commonwealth, the Blue Devils will play for the 2K Classic championship Sunday at 1 p.m. against Georgetown. The Hoyas notched their first win of the year against Wisconsin Friday but took No. 3 Maryland down to the wire in College Park earlier this week. Here are three keys to a Blue Devil victory against the Hoyas:

Defend the 3-point line

Georgetown shoots better than 35 percent from beyond the arc so far this season, which could present problems for a Duke defense that has been weak around the perimeter at times. During the season’s first two games against Siena and Bryant, the Blue Devils allowed their opponents to shoot a combined 47.6 percent from downtown, with Bryant scoring more than half of its points from long distance.

A reprise of those defensive performances would put Duke in a dangerous position, as the Hoyas’ offense features several players—namely D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Isaac Copeland and Reggie Cameron—that are dangerous offensive threats from 3-point range. Georgetown has five different players averaging at least 33 percent from deep—compared to just Matt Jones for Duke—so the Blue Devils will need to stay close to their opponents on the perimeter, particularly if Duke opts to go with the smaller lineup that turned the tide Friday against the Rams.

Avoid foul trouble

If the Blue Devils are successful at defending on the perimeter, Georgetown will look to find its points by attacking the basket and being aggressive in the paint. In its sole loss to Kentucky, Duke committed a season-high 20 fouls—a mistake that proved costly as the Wildcats racked up 11 points at the free-throw line, the same as their margin of victory. The Blue Devils have had two players with four fouls in each of their last two games. The Hoyas average 72.7 percent from the charity stripe, so using fouls as a substitute for stalwart defense could prove costly for the Blue Devils.

Get Kennard on track

One of the most puzzling questions for Duke early in the season revolves around the performance of touted freshman Luke Kennard. Although Kennard certainly knows how to be a prolific scorer—averaging 38.1 points per game during his senior campaign at Franklin High School—his shooting prowess has yet to transfer to the college game since arriving in Durham. Despite averaging more than 20 minutes per contest, Kennard has only averaged 6.0 points per game. The hot-handed guard is just 2-of-14 from deep while shooting 34.6 percent from the field.

Sunday’s matchup against Georgetown is an opportunity for Kennard to right the ship and receive a boost of confidence early on in the year. The Hoyas’ defensive weaknesses play into the sharpshooter’s hands, as opponents are shooting 39.1 percent from 3-point range against Georgetown. A breakout performance from Kennard would not only impact the outcome of the 2K Classic, but would also be an important milestone in the freshman's Duke career. If Kennard can get something going on the perimeter against Georgetown, it could serve as a catalyst for a strong shooting season to come for the Franklin, Ohio, native.


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