Luke Kennard has cooled off lately from beyond the arc, shooting just 4-of-12 in his last three games.


Key three: Duke men's basketball vs. N.C. State

The Blue Devils face a quick turnaround with a Monday night contest against N.C. State at Cameron Indoor Stadium just two days after they beat Miami 70-58. The Wolfpack have had a disappointing season thus far, but still have the talent to challenge Duke. Here are three keys to Monday's game for the Blue Devils:

Contain Dennis Smith Jr.

N.C. State has been one of the ACC's weakest teams this year, but it has one player who will garner plenty of attention as interim head coach Jeff Capel makes his gameplan for Monday night—Dennis Smith Jr. The freshman—who leads his team in both points and assists this season—was the No. 4 recruit and top guard in the Class of 2016, and he has not disappointed for the Wolfpack. The Fayetteville, N.C., native is a complete player—he is one of only 17 players in the nation with a triple-double this season and is the only player in the top five in the conference in both points per game and assists.

In their most recent game against Miami, Duke’s guards stepped up down the stretch and halted the Hurricane backcourt's early offensive success, and they will need to do the same against Smith Jr. Do not be surprised if the Blue Devils rely on the duo of senior Matt Jones and freshman Frank Jackson—who combined for five steals against Miami—to lock down the versatile guard as he attempts to lead his team to a road upset.

Get 3-point shooting back on track

Jones sparked Duke Saturday night by going 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, but aside from the senior co-captain’s performance, the Blue Devils were a dismal 2-of-11 from long range, far from the team’s 36.5 percent clip this season. Duke—which has historically prided itself on efficient 3-point shooting—has really struggled this year and ranks just 12th in the conference from deep, a number that needs to improve if the team expects to keep up offensively with other powerhouse programs in the ACC. 

Facing an unimpressive N.C. State squad that ranks in the bottom half of the conference in 3-point defense, Monday could be a great opportunity for the Blue Devils to find open looks and gain some momentum moving forward.

Play hard for 40 minutes

Duke’s game against the Hurricanes was certainly a tale of two halves, with the team scoring just 25 points in the first half but outscoring Miami 45-22 after the break. The Blue Devils ultimately found what it took to earn a much-needed victory at home Saturday, but Capel will need to find a way to get his players to devote that second-half intensity and effort to an entire game. If not, Duke could find itself in an unexpected scare early on and in need of a comeback for the second straight game. That means the Blue Devils will need to be quick to adjust to the Wolfpack's pick-and-rolls that help Smith Jr. initiate his team’s offense, likely putting the bulk of the burden on the defensive play of Duke’s backcourt from the opening tip.

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