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Key three: Duke men’s basketball looks to break game open against Wake Forest

<p>Javin DeLaurier is among the Blue Devils that needs to step up as Duke heads to the postseason.</p>

Javin DeLaurier is among the Blue Devils that needs to step up as Duke heads to the postseason.

It seems like an eternity since Duke’s 87-65 win over Wake Forest at the beginning of ACC play, but the two teams will face off again for Senior Night in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Tuesday. The Blue Zone gives you three keys for the Blue Devils against their in-state foes: 

Put them away early

In January’s game in Winston Salem, the underdog Demon Deacons kept it close for most of the first half, heading into halftime down just eight. Duke would eventually ride an uber effective Zion Williamson to a blowout win, but they should have no problems getting out to a strong start if they take smart shots.

It would come as no surprise if head coach Danny Manning decided to use a zone defense to limit the Blue Devils, something that has coaxed the young freshmen to take seemingly easy three pointers. Eventually, head coach Mike Krzyzewski focuses his squad on controlling and attacking the paint, but it’s a habit that has gotten Duke in holes early this season. The Blue Devils want to get their transition game moving early and pound the ball inside to crush any hopes at a major upset.

Develop the bench

No one has ever questioned if Duke’s top talent has what it takes to win six straight in the NCAA Tournament, it’s been whether or not the team has the depth to bring home a championship. Alex O’Connell and Marques Bolden have shown tremendous strides through ACC play, and Jack White finally showed some life against Miami, but it will take contributions from the other bench players when the games really count, and Tuesday is an excellent opportunity to give those players more minutes with the anticipated blowout.

Joey Baker has played just 11 total minutes over his first three career games, and he will need to rack up a solid amount to try to get a rhythm going. There’s no doubt that the freshman forward has the tools, but he has to first get accustomed to playing in a game setting.

Then, there’s Javin DeLaurier, who could be the most important player to bring along before March Madness begins. The Blue Devils have struggled to contain big forwards and centers that can shoot, and the junior captain has the physical abilities to be the defensive stopper to those stretch four and five types, despite his ridiculous 2.5 fouls in just under 15 minutes averaged per game.

Avoid injury

No offense to the Demon Deacons, but I am fairly sure that the Blue Devils would still win this one even if R.J Barrett and Cam Reddish decided they’d sit out and watch the game from the student section. Wake Forest has one notable win with a victory at N.C. State, but it’s a game that means very little in the grand scheme of Duke’s season.

Yes, everyone would like to see Zion play one more time in Cameron, and it would be beneficial to shake off some rust before a potential return against North Carolina. However, the mere accomplishment of getting to the locker room with no injuries would be bigger than a win for Mike Krzyzewski, as every single one of the next possible 10 games has major goal implications for a Blue Devil season that would feel empty without any sort of championship.


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