Duke will continue its conference slate by traveling to Wake Forest Tuesday. The Blue Zone breaks down three aspects of the game that could tilt the contest in the Blue Devils’ favor as they look to keep their undefeated ACC record intact.
Jump out to a hot start
Outside of its otherworldly victory over Kentucky, Duke has consistently seemed slow and sluggish out of the gate. That common theme extended into ACC play Saturday, when the Blue Devils could not hold a consistent lead over Clemson until there were only six minutes remaining in the first-half. Duke then scored the first 14 points of the final period to secure the victory, but these second-half surges won’t save the team when it’s time to play Virginia and North Carolina.
Yes, the Blue Devils could probably get away with another slow start against the Demon Deacons and still come out with the win. But the team needs to begin playing with some fire in the game’s first 20 minutes to prepare for its tougher contests. Otherwise, that Jan. 19 matchup with the Cavaliers in Cameron could turn ugly.
Get Cam Reddish involved in the offense
Reddish has been struggling for a while now, and it only seems to be getting worse as Duke continues to take the floor. Against the Tigers Saturday, the freshman forward did not score until there were 13 minutes left in the contest and finished the night with four points, four fouls and six turnovers. On the year, the Norristown, Pa. native is shooting just 35.6 percent from the floor and is averaging a team-high 2.9 giveaways a night.
Heading into the year, it was clear that it was going to be tough integrating the top three recruits in the country into one offense. Most predicted that Reddish would likely end up being the one forced to take a backseat. But likely few thought he would pretty much disappear the way he has over the Blue Devils’ last few games.
Coach K needs to make his star forward a focus in this matchup against Wake Forest, whether that be giving him the ball in iso situations or setting him up for catch-and-shoot threes. Reddish could also work on using his team-high 2.2 steals per game to turn stifling defense into offense. Regardless, the No. 3 overall prospect in his class needs to find some way to get himself going and contribute when he is on the floor.
Keep Zion Williamson in the game
Williamson has had an unbelievable start to the year. The 6-foot-7, 285-pound forward is averaging an insane 20.2 points, 9.5 boards, 2.1 steals and 1.9 blocks a game. He impacts the game in ways that few other college players this decade have. The only issue is ensuring he can stay on the floor as much as possible.
When talking about playing time, the problem—especially for someone of Williamson’s size—is typically foul trouble. But in this case, that’s not really the main issue—the Spartanburg, S.C. native has committed four fouls only once this season. Rather, it is Williamson’s lack of stamina, caused by his ridiculous motor and size, that forces him to the bench.
Against Clemson, the No. 2 recruit played just 22 minutes, and he hasn’t reached the 30-minute plateau since Nov. 21 against Gonzaga. Teammate R.J. Barrett has played above 30 minutes four times in that same timeframe. Keeping Williamson out there for 35 minutes against a weaker opponent like Wake Forest probably isn’t the smartest idea, but definitely look out to see how he handles his playing time when he’s on the court. Because in the end, Duke wants arguably its best player to be on the court for as long as he can.
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