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X factor: Duke basketball vs. Miami

After losing its first game of the season Sunday at N.C. State, No. 4 Duke returns home to host Miami Tuesday at 9 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium seeking to get back in the win column ahead of a showdown at No. 6 Louisville Saturday. Before each game this season, the Blue Zone will select a player on both teams that could make the difference for their respective squads::

Duke: point guard Tyus Jones

The freshman floor general is in the midst of a rough stretch of play that has some wondering whether the Apple Valley, Minn., native has hit the freshman wall. In the last four games, Jones has averaged just five points per game on 27 percent shooting. But equally concerning for the Blue Devils has been the 6-foot-1 guard’s inability to get the offense moving smoothly at times and defensive missteps.

Against the Hurricanes Tuesday, Jones will have an important role on both ends of the court as he looks to get back on track. Miami relies heavily on playing inside out and has four players shooting better than 35-percent from distance on the year. The freshman will also have his hands full with Hurricane point guard and Kansas State transfer Angel Rodriguez, who has performed admirably in Miami’s biggest games of the season and is known for coming up clutch just like Jones.

On offense, the guard will need to be looking for his shot—especially considering the massive double-teams that Jahlil Okafor has faced thus far in ACC play. The Blue Devils won big games against Wisconsin and Michigan State earlier this season on the backs of offensive explosions by Jones. But even if he does not look to score against the Hurricanes, Duke's floor general needs to get back to being the calming presence he was early in the season.

Miami: guard Sheldon McClellan

The former Texas standout has tremendous size and athletic ability that allows him to make an impact all over the floor. McClellan comes in averaging 15.4 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game to go along with his 39.6 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

The key for Duke will be to find an answer on defense for McClellan while containing Rodriguez. Although guards Matt Jones and Rasheed Sulaimon both stand at 6-foot-5, neither have been faced with the task of guarding players as dynamic as McClellan often and struggled against Trevor Lacey Sunday. Preseason fears of the danger of the Blue Devils’ small lineup with Quinn Cook may reappear if Miami’s junior is able to get going early. As a result, expect freshman Justise Winslow or the bigger guards off the bench to be matched up with the Hurricanes’ standout throughout the game.

Equally important for Duke will be using size to keep McClellan off the boards—especially on the offensive side on the ball. Big men Amile Jefferson and Okafor—as well as Marshall Plumlee off the bench—will all have to box out the high-flying McClellan effectively in order to prevent Miami from capitalizing on second-chance points.


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