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Hot shooting and quick dribble drives into the holes of Syracuse's zone from Frank Jackson could ...

X Factor: Duke men's basketball vs. Syracuse



Duke heads to Syracuse, N.Y., Wednesday looking to continue its current seven-game winning streak and pick up a game in the ACC standings against Louisville or North Carolina, who will also meet Wednesday in Chapel Hill. The Blue Devils are aiming to defeat Syracuse for the fourth time in six matchups since the Orange joined the ACC in 2013. The Blue Zone takes a look at a player from each team who could be the difference-maker in the game:

Duke: Guard Frank Jackson

Although classmate Jayson Tatum has drawn the most attention for his series of performances during Duke’s winning streak, the Blue Devils will need another freshman to step up and deliver against Syracuse. The Orange feature Hall-of-Fame head coach Jim Boeheim’s famed 2-3 zone, which Syracuse has turned into a deadly weapon during Boeheim’s tenure since he first became head coach in 1976, four years before Coach K arrived in Durham. 

In order for Duke to dismantle this signature defense, point guard play will be key. When the point guard is able to shoot over the zone in addition to attacking the gaps with dribble penetration and dishing out to shooters, he can overwork the front two guards and set up opportunities for his teammates.

Although Jackson has been inconsistent at times this season, he has also proven time and again that he has the dynamic scoring abilities that can make him deadly against teams like Syracuse. At home against Miami, he was a key part of the run that helped the Blue Devils overcome an 11-point halftime deficit, and he has shown he can knock down shots from behind the arc as well. The Alpine, Utah, native is shooting 37.4 percent from downtown, good for third on the team behind Luke Kennard and Tatum. 

With his quickness and ability to handle the ball on offense, Jackson could be the key to exposing the Orange defense, much like Boston College did earlier in ACC play in an upset win in which the Eagles shot 61.5 percent from deep and put up 96 points.

Syracuse: Guard Tyus Battle

Syracuse’s roller-coaster season has taken another turn for the worse, as it has lost three straight games just weeks after knocking off Florida State and Virginia and temporarily placing itself among the top teams in the ACC. The Orange depend on their ability to close out teams and finish wins, and Tyus Battle has shown the ability to do just that, most recently with a buzzer-beating triple to knock off Clemson Feb. 7. 

The freshman guard has impressed thus far, averaging nearly 10 points per game and showing flashes of his playmaking ability, as well as a smooth stroke from the perimeter. However, a recent illness has limited the Edison, N.J., native, and he has scored in double figures just once in the past four games, tallying 11 in Sunday’s loss to a surprisingly strong Georgia Tech team. 

For the Orange to have any chance at knocking off the surging Blue Devils, they will need Battle to perform like he did at home against Virginia two weeks ago, when he posted 23 points and was 3-of-6 from the 3-point line. In a fast-paced shootout against Wake Forest Saturday, Duke allowed sophomore guard Bryant Crawford to score 21 points, mostly on drives to the basket. If Battle can exploit the same holes and find his way to the rim, Syracuse has a chance at another momentum-shifting win at home and the chance to right the ship somewhat as it heads into the final stretch of the regular season and the ACC tournament.


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