After struggling in a road loss to No. 20 Virginia Tech, the third-ranked Blue Devils return to the friendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium to take on Miami Saturday at 4 p.m.—a crucial matchup to stay in contention for the ACC title. The Blue Zone looks at a key player for each team:
Duke: Tre Jones
The Blue Devils have been without Zion Williamson for the past three games, forcing others to step up offensively. Jones has struggled with that increased responsibility going a mere 2-for-12 from the field against Syracuse and 3-for-9 against Virginia Tech. This has put an even greater burden on R.J. Barrett, another Duke player tasked with initiating offense.
Jones’s shot has been a work in progress throughout the season as the freshman is shooting just 24.6 percent from beyond the arc. The point guard is an expert at penetrating the defense and getting to the basket, but these lanes have dried up since Williamson’s injury. Playing Miami is an opportunity for the Apple Valley, Minn. native to get back on track as the Hurricanes rank 142nd in the country in scoring defense.
Jones discovering his scoring touch would be a boon for the Blue Devils as they continue to manage without Williamson. Even once the star freshman returns, having another perimeter scoring option will be key as Duke begins to look towards the postseason.
Miami: Chris Lykes
Although Jones may have his shortcomings offensively, his defense has been elite throughout the season as he has continually harassed the opposing team’s best perimeter player. He will have his hands full once again against the Hurricanes who boast one of the better point guards in the ACC in Chris Lykes.
The sophomore is averaging 16.6 points per game and has stepped up in his second year after Miami lost three key contributors from last year’s team. Lykes almost singlehandedly willed the Hurricanes to an upset of then-No. 8 North Carolina a few weeks ago, pouring in 27 points including five threes in the close loss.
The Mitchellville, Md. native is the key to everything Miami does offensively and the battle between him and Jones will establish the tone for the game. If Lykes is able to score easily, the Hurricanes may have enough firepower to pull off an upset especially if Williamson remains sidelined.
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