Luke Kennard has little margin for error with the Blue Devils' success often hinging on his performance.


X Factor: Duke men's basketball vs. Notre Dame

After securing a key conference win on the road Saturday, the Blue Devils head to South Bend, Ind., looking to go above .500 in ACC play for the first time in more than three weeks. The Blue Zone takes a look at a player from each team who could be the difference-maker in the game.

Duke: Guard Luke Kennard

With the season hanging in the balance down by 10 at halftime against a middling Wake Forest squad Saturday, Kennard took his game to a whole new level. After scoring only four points on 1-of-4 shooting in the first half, the sophomore guard made all 10 of his shots in the final period, scoring 30 of Duke’s 53 points to carry the Blue Devils to a last-minute victory. The Franklin, Ohio, native scored at will in a variety of ways, showcasing his offensive pedigree that has brought him into the All-American conversation.

Duke's offense still has its struggles at times with multiple ball-dominant players on the court, but the team lives and dies with Kennard's production. Despite playing with preseason All-American Grayson Allen and top-three recruits Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum, Kennard has emerged as the alpha scorer to this point in the season, and the Blue Devils' success is usually dependent on hot shooting from him. During the Duke's slump of three losses in four games prior to Saturday's contest, Kennard shot worse than 50 percent from long range in each game. 

For the Blue Devils to beat a top-20 team on the road, Kennard is going to have to score in bunches once again, as a largely inexperienced Duke squad may struggle to get stops on the defensive end against a high-powered Notre Dame offense that enters the contest averaging 79.0 points per game.

Notre Dame: Forward Bonzie Colson

The pick-and-roll has devastated the Blue Devil defense time and time again this season, with big forwards such as Anas Mahmoud and John Collins torching Duke for 17 and 20 points, respectively. Some of Colson’s best offense comes off the pick-and-roll, despite his lack of size for a power forward—he is listed at 6-foot-5—as he uses his strength and shooting touch to get to the heart of opposing defenses.

The Fighting Irish’s leading scorer also happens to play his best games against the Blue Devils, as he registered 31 points and 11 rebounds at Cameron Indoor Stadium last year and also scored 17 points as a freshman in the ACC semifinals two years ago. It seems as though this matchup is the perfect storm for Colson, who is already averaging 15.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Even after graduate student forward Amile Jefferson's return from a two-game injury absence, the Blue Devil defense has still been virtually lifeless, spelling another monster outing for Notre Dame’s best post presence. 

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