XFactor: Duke vs Virginia Commonwealth

<p>Derryck Thornton was the first Blue Devil freshman to score Tuesday, but four turnovers helped Kentucky get out on the fast break and pad its lead.</p>

Derryck Thornton was the first Blue Devil freshman to score Tuesday, but four turnovers helped Kentucky get out on the fast break and pad its lead.

After dropping their first game of the season in the Champions Classic against Kentucky, the Blue Devils will look to get back to their winning ways Friday as they take on Virginia Commonwealth in the 2K Classic. The Blue Zone takes a look at a player from both teams that could be the difference-maker in the game: 

Duke: guard Derryck Thornton

The growing pains of being an 18-year old point guard for one the nation’s top programs have been evident so far for Thornton. Although he has limited his turnovers to an average of just two per game, the freshman's offensive game has been non-existent, despite being head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s most-used reserve. His 25-percent shooting from the floor is the lowest of any Blue Devil player with at least 10 shots through Duke’s first three games and although he is known as an explosive driver, Thornton has gone to the free-throw line just twice.

Up to this point, Thornton has yet to start and has shared ball-handling duties with the entire crop of guards, making for a crowded Blue Devil backcourt. Certainly, this an issue that Krzyzewski will want to resolve before conference play begins. Against a pressuring team like the Rams, Duke must rely on Thornton’s raw skill to get the ball up court and open the floor for its multitude of perimeter shooting threats.

Don’t expect the Blue Devils to make any lineup changes following a 74-63 loss to Kentucky Tuesday night in Chicago. That being said, Thornton must continue to play a major role in the Duke gameplan, even if that means coming off the bench. He has the raw skill to become a talented point guard and needs to struggle through rough waters in order to become a better player in the long run. If Thornton can take a step towards being the point guard that the Blue Devil coaching staff expects him to be, it will go a long way in pointing the team towards victory Friday night

Virginia Commonwealth: guard Jordan Burgess 

 For fans of mid-majors and particularly the Rams, the last name Burgess should be quite familiar. Jordan’s older brother Bradford was a member of the 2010-11 and 2011-12 teams that made consecutive Final Four appearances. Jordan Burgess is one of the team’s toughest defenders and played a major role in former head coach Shaka Smart’s "HAVOC" defense. With Will Wade at the helm, Virginia Commonwealth runs a slightly more conservative defensive scheme, but still implements a variety of half-court traps that utilize Burgess’s toughness and athleticism.

Although not known particularly for his scoring ability, the redshirt junior has shot nearly 43-percent from beyond the arc this season and his hard-nosed driving ability will challenge a Duke team that has had its share of defensive issues to this point. Not only is he an efficient scorer—averaging 46.7 percent from the field—but he also crashes the board. As the Blue Devils saw against the Wildcats Tuesday night, they must defend against second-chance opportunities if they hope to come away with the win against the Rams.

Mitchell Gladstone | Sports Managing Editor

Twitter: @mpgladstone13

A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak." 


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