Coming off a big home win against Boston College, the Duke Blue Devils will travel to Charlottesville this Saturday, kicking off arguably one of the toughest six game stretches in all of college hoops against the Virginia Cavaliers. The Blue Zone takes a look at a player from each side that could be the difference maker in the matchup.
Duke: Cam Reddish
While the Blue Zone has been one of the first to lament Cam Reddish’s poor shooting touch this year, his continued resurgence will be absolutely vital in what is likely to be the toughest game that Duke will play all year.
The Norristown, Pa. native has only shot 35.9 percent from the field, but this is a trend that the freshman has been taking strides to reverse. On a team with very little perimeter scoring ability, Reddish has had to try to fill the spot-up shooter role this season. And while it has clearly been an adjustment for the 6-foot-8 forward, his last few games have shown quite the improvement.
Against Notre Dame, he only shot 4-of-13 from the field, but three of his four makes were triples, on eight shots from beyond the arc. He also drained four threes on ten attempts against St. John’s. But what the Blue Devils need from Reddish to beat the Cavaliers is another performance like the one he put up against Boston College.
Against Virginia’s highly touted pack line defense, the paint presence that Duke brings to the table will play a more limited role than usual— and knowing that the Blue Devils hit only 2-of-14 shots from deep in the last meeting between these two teams, the Cavaliers will force Duke to beat them with any outside game it can muster.
This is where Reddish will need to shine. Putting up 24 points on 8-of-16 overall shooting—including four 3-pointers — the former No. 3 overall recruit looked the part, putting away the Eagles with style.
If the Blue Devils hope to come out with a second consecutive win against the best defense college basketball has to offer, they will need another lights out shooting night in a hostile environment when they make the trip to Virginia.
Virginia: Kyle Guy
Virginia is, on the surface, a completely different team than Duke. The Cavaliers have a relatively limited transition game, preferring to slow the game down on both ends. Their offense revolves around continuous ball movement, waiting to find the open man— they rarely play with anyone in isolation.
And yet, the Cavaliers will need to do the exact same thing as the Blue Devils to pull out a big victory at home— hit from downtown. This is where Kyle Guy comes in.
He has been Virginia’s consistent range shooter— at a mark of 43.8 percent from three on the season, Guy has become one of the nation’s most lethal shooters on a team with the best defensive game in the country. This formidable combo is what the Cavaliers will come at Duke with, hoping to add a statement win to their resume and earn their way up the rankings.
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But it will not be quite that easy. In the previous matchup between these two teams, the normally better-than-proficient scorers on the Virginia squad turned in only a 3-of-17 performance from outside, with Guy hitting two, but on seven attempts— coming nowhere near his usual mark.
Look for Duke to lock up the paint on the defensive end and force the Cavaliers to do better than their previous matchup. Against a lineup much smaller than theirs, the Blue Devils will have no trouble turning in another great performance inside, especially with Tre Jones on the floor this time, hounding the perimeter players and letting the big men focus on what they do best— getting in the way. And get in the way they will, putting the onus on Kyle Guy to be the leading scorer of the night from beyond the arc.
Come Saturday night, expect to see two sharpshooters leading their respective teams— and come the last few minutes, look for one of them to throw the knockout punch.