Contain the Guards
Over the past few years, Duke has struggled to contain athletic guards, especially on dribble penetration. Unfortunately, the Orange are equipped with a dynamic backcourt duo in Tyus Battle and Frank Howard. Battle is third in the ACC in scoring, averaging over 20 points per game. He also dropped a 26-point outing in a near upset against North Carolina on Wednesday. Howard also has been on a tear of his own over the last five games averaging 18 points and five assists while shooting 44 percent from deep. Between the two, they generate over half of Syracuse’s offense; if you shut them down, you shut down the Orange.
Win the Turnover Battle
Over the course of the season, Duke has seemed to alternate between taking excellent care of the ball and sloppy, careless play. Against the Orange, there is no margin for error. Syracuse is tied for second in the ACC in steal percentage, with both Howard and Battle in the top five in the ACC in steals. At the same time, Syracuse does a good job taking care of the ball, with the fourth fewest turnovers in the conference. Unless Duke shoots the lights out, if they lose the turnover battle, they lose the game.
Limit Offensive Rebounds
In the Duke’s heartbreaking loss against North Carolina, a large part of their undoing was allowing far too many easy scoring opportunities off of offensive rebounds. Syracuse is the third best offensive rebounding team in the ACC, sitting just below Duke and North Carolina in the leaderboard. Recently Syracuse has been trotting out an enormous starting lineup that features three players 6-foot-8 or taller including the seven-foot-2 Paschal Chukwu who is sixth in the ACC in offensive boards. Boxing out and ending opposing possessions after the first shot will be vital both against Syracuse and in March.