A little less than three years ago, Furman guard John Davis III walked into Cameron Indoor Stadium as a freshman, assigned the ruthless task of trying to contain a Blue Devil backcourt led by Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones in just the fourth game of his college career. The result was not what the freshman guard had in mind.

Davis, a key player for the Paladins, will make his return to Durham Monday with more maturity under his belt when Duke takes on Furman at 7 p.m Monday at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Davis and company will be greeted by a Duke team boasting some of the most dominant big men in the nation, but instead of Amile Jefferson and Jahlil Okafor wearing the blue and white, it will be freshmen Wendell Carter Jr. and Marvin Bagley III. 

“Our bigs are a big strength to our team. They draw so much attention on offense, that's what frees everything else up,” senior captain Grayson Allen said after Friday's win against Southern. “[We need to] get them the ball early, get them the ball in transition. When they do run, reward them and get it to them deep in the post. All of us just cut and play off from there.”

The Blue Devils are likely to pound the paint again Monday, as Furman head coach Bob Richey brings in a roster featuring five players shorter than 6-feet and no players taller than 6-foot-8. Although the Paladins have been able to work around their lack of height thus far, beating Elon and Division II Bob Jones, they will be facing a different type of challenge Monday night against a Duke frontcourt that boasts five players 6-foot-10 or taller and leads the nation with 74 offensive rebounds. 

Despite the glaring mismatches on paper, the Blue Devils (4-0) still have a lot to improve on after their lackadaisical performance against Southern Friday night with the PK80 Invitational looming at the end of the week.

“This team didn’t play like it’s practiced or played this year. We did get a couple performances.... Marques [Bolden] came in and gave us a big lift in the second half. Alex [O'Connell] played well, Trevon [Duval] continues to play well,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “There wasn’t a good flow even though our bigs put up good stats...there was something missing tonight.”

The Blue Devils came out of the gates slowly, missing assignments and ultimately allowing a winless Southern team to tie the game with about six minutes remaining in the first half.

“We started off slow, and that’s what happens if you don't come ready to play. Teams are going to be coming to get us, every team from here on out,” Bagley III said. “We have a target on our backs, and if we come out like that, then every game is going to be like that. We have to learn from this and be ready every game because any team can beat us.”

For Duke to get back on track, it will have to find a way to contain Furman’s perimeter threats and force the Paladins (2-1) to attack the interior, where Wendell Carter Jr. has had his way defensively. Four of Furman’s five starters have shot the 3-ball at a 40 percent mark or better, with senior Devin Sibley shooting 56.3 percent from deep and posting a team-high 19.0 points per game.

Furman combines its small-ball offensive approach with pesky play on the defensive end, holding opponents to just 65.7 points per game. The guard matchup between Davis and Duval will feature two of the best defensive guards in the country through the start of the year, with Davis averaging 2.7 steals per game and Duval posting 3.0 takeaways per game. 

“He’s really come on in the last few games as far as talk, which is something he didn’t do in September or October, even in the exhibition games,” Krzyzewski said of Duval. “Both he and Grayson in the Michigan State game were fantastic in leading the team.” 

Ben Leonard and Liz Finny contributed reporting.