XFactor: Duke basketball vs Notre Dame

After three matchups a year ago, the ninth-ranked Blue Devils and the Fighting Irish will battle for the first time this season Saturday at 2 p.m. Duke will look to bounce back following a 68-63 road loss to Clemson, while Notre Dame will look to continue its winning ways after defeating Georgia Tech Wednesday. Before each game, the Chronicle takes a look at one player from each team who could be the difference maker in Duke's upcoming contest:

Duke: guard Luke Kennard

Many remember last year’s home matchup against Notre Dame as a stage upon which freshmen Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor asserted their dominance with spectacular dunks and acrobatic post moves. With this said, it should not be forgotten that the Blue Devils’ sharpshooting was a big difference-maker that kept both the team and home crowd energized throughout, as Duke finished 9-of-15 from beyond the arc en route to a 30-point victory. 

Despite a new wave of young Blue Devils under Mike Krzyzewski’s tutelage, 3-point shooting will be an important factor if Duke wants a repeat of last season’s outcome. Luke Kennard’s performance—which has been inconsistent at times—will be as important as ever as the Blue Devils look for their fourth ACC victory of the season. The freshman guard struggled shooting early in the season and is shooting just 30 percent from downtown entering the contest. An improvement against Notre Dame Saturday would give Cameron Indoor Stadium the extra zest needed to make it reminiscent of last year’s 3-point frenzy.

There is plenty of opportunity for the Franklin, Ohio, native to shine against Mike Brey's squad— whose opponents have shot around 38 percent from long distance this season. In their most recent loss to Pittsburgh, the Fighting Irish allowed the Panthers to shoot 53 percent from deep and displayed the team’s vulnerability to 3-point threats. If Kennard can get his shot going early in the game and use a hot start to find openings in the mid-range game, the Blue Devils should have enough offense to take care of the Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame: Zach Auguste

After posting 24 points in the team’s most recent game against Georgia Tech, Auguste is a force to be reckoned with. The senior has an opportunity to redeem himself after an embarrassing scoreless performance in Durham a year ago and expect him to come out firing on all cylinders.

Auguste is the second-leading scorer on his team with 13.9 points per game this season and is an extremely efficient shooter, making more that 56 percent of his shots. With the Marlborough, M.A., native manning the post alongside another reliable offensive performer in Bonzie Colson, Duke will have to limit Auguste's effectiveness and stay out of foul trouble. Add the fact that the team’s leading scorer—junior guard Demetrius Jackson—has shot 40 percent from beyond the arc this season and it’s easy to see why the forward could have another breakout performance as the Blue Devil defense is stretched thin.

Strong offensive performances from opposing forwards have been the deciding factors in Duke’s last two losses, so stopping Auguste from following suit is crucial to coming away with a win against Notre Dame. For a team that allowed Clemson’s frontcourt to combine for 45 points and 23 rebounds, the Blue Devils will have their work cut out for them Saturday.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Chronicle.