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Key three: Duke men's basketball will need to attack Indiana early and often Tuesday night

Zion Williamson and Duke's other star freshmen will share the spotlight with Romeo Langford Tuesday night.
Zion Williamson and Duke's other star freshmen will share the spotlight with Romeo Langford Tuesday night.

Duke will host Indiana at 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday night as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The Blue Zone examines three keys for the contest:

Setting the tone early

A late 28-3 comeback run spurred Indiana to a big victory against the University of California, Davis on Friday. Meanwhile, Duke’s own recent comeback against Gonzaga fell just short in a demoralizing loss in the final game of the Maui Invitational Tournament. It was only the first game this season in which the Blue Devils never really held control, but a rebound game should be up next for the squad. It’s time for Duke to reverse its fortune.

Standing in the Blue Devils’ way is Indiana’s homegrown freshman phenom, Romeo Langford. Duke needs to shut him down, and shut him down early. The lengthy guard’s game bears resemblance to R.J. Barrett’s, with nifty ball-handling and smooth finishing at the rim. Though seemingly emotionless on the court, Langford is prone to poor decision-making— he has committed 15 turnovers this season, most on the team. His three-point shot also leaves much to be desired, converting just 26.1 percent of his attempts from downtown thus far. Duke has the tools to suppress Langford, and the Hoosiers have few other scoring threats beyond their lone superstar freshman. 

From a purely athletic standpoint, Indiana is outmatched at every position. If a Blue Devil press can force mistakes from the Hoosiers out of the gate, Duke could put the game away within the first half and regain some much-needed mojo. Once up, the Blue Devils will be unlikely to concede their lead to a smaller, less dynamic Indiana offense.

Attacking the backups

Langford will be on full display Tuesday. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, so will Duke’s Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish. Perhaps both of these households are alike in dignity, but the Blue Devil lineup is stacked while Indiana’s is badly depleted.

Injuries have hampered Indiana inside and out this season. Upperclassmen guards Devonte Green and Zach McRoberts each haven’t seen action since Nov. 9, and freshman Rob Phinisee and sophomore Al Durham have not thrived defensively in their place. 6-foot-10 forward De’Ron Davis, who put up 16 points against Duke last year, is recovering from a torn ACL and played only limited minutes in his return last game. Sophomore forward Justin Smith has performed only so-so in his stead. Smith’s vulnerabilities were exposed in the Hoosiers’ loss to Arkansas, as he shot 1-for-6 and was simply outsized by the Razorbacks.

The duo of Langford and senior forward Juwon Morgan has taken on the scoring load, averaging 18.5 and 17.5 points per game, respectively. They each possess the scoring prowess to beat Duke on the offensive end, but the Hoosiers lack the lockdown perimeter defenders to prevent penetration into the lane, where Williamson and Barrett make their living. Rim-rockers will abound in the absence of Davis’ interior presence— Indiana’s tallest starter last game was Morgan, who stands just 6-foot-8. This could be just the cure for a young Duke team down in the dumps.

Full-fledged craziness

The Hoosiers have never won at Cameron Indoor Stadium, but they have plenty of company. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils own their home court, having not lost a nonconference game since 2000. Unranked Indiana is unlikely to change that. Expect the Duke student section to be at full howling strength, and the Cameron Crazies do not take kindly to outsiders. That doesn’t bode well for the inexperienced Phinisee and Langford— no matter how detached the latter may appear. Competing at Cameron Indoor Stadium should serve as the Hoosiers’ toughest test yet, and it’s not one they are likely to pass. 


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