tatum_juanbermudez174_copy

Jayson Tatum's first career double-double sparked the Blue Devil offense to its third straight 80-plus ...

X Factor: Duke men's basketball vs. Pittsburgh



With head coach Mike Krzyzewski set to return to the sidelines for the first time in four weeks after recovering from back surgery, the Blue Devils will host Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon in search of their third straight win. The Blue Zone takes a look at a player from each team who could be the difference-maker in the game.

Duke: Forward Jayson Tatum

After coming off an early-season injury and an up-and-down adjustment period to the start of ACC play, Tatum bounced back with 19 points and a career-high 14 rebounds to lead the Blue Devils to a win Monday at Notre Dame. The freshman swingman is the second-leading scorer on the team with 16.1 points per game and has also been an important contributor to a Duke defense that holds competitors to 68.0 points per game. Although the Blue Devils average 83.0 points per game, Pittsburgh is not far behind with an average of 76.8 per contest, and Tatum could be matched up against senior forwards Jamel Artis or Michael Young.

Duke is currently 5-4 midway through conference play, with four of its remaining games against ranked teams—two against rival North Carolina. The Blue Devils have their work cut out for them to pick themselves up after a disappointing start to the conference slate, but a win against the Panthers, who are 1-8 in ACC play, would be a good confidence booster heading into the stretch run of the regular season.

After being chosen as the preseason favorite in the conference, Duke has a lot to prove to make its way back up to the top, and that starts with Tatum stepping up and continuing to perform at the high level many expected of him when he arrived at Duke.

Pittsburgh: Forward Jamel Artis

With the Panthers on a seven-game losing streak and virtually eliminated from the NCAA tournament hunt, the senior has everything to gain with a win at Cameron Indoor Stadium in his last season of college basketball. Artis has been a source of consistency for Pittsburgh throughout the season, even during its lengthy slide. The 6-foot-7 forward takes nearly half of his shots from beyond the arc and shoots 42.9 percent from deep, putting Tatum and the Blue Devils' off-ball perimeter defenders to the test. The ACC's leading scorer, Artis averages 20.9 points per game and dropped a career-high 43 points in the team’s narrow 85-80 loss at then-No. 14 Louisville, shooting 15-of-22 from the field.

Artis’ only game with fewer than 10 points came in the team’s second matchup against Louisville two weeks later, when he scored nine points on 3-of-11 shooting in a 55-point loss. The Panthers need a career day from Artis to have a legitimate chance on the road, but much like N.C. State's Dennis Smith Jr. last week, he has the potential to carry his team to a much-needed victory.


Comments powered by Disqus

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