After a gut-wrenching loss that will no doubt linger for a long time in the memories of Blue Devil fans and players, Duke looks to reclaim Cameron Indoor Stadium against the visiting Winthrop Eagles Friday night. The Blue Zone analyzes a key player from each team that could make the difference:
Duke: Forward Wendell Moore Jr.
There is a thin line between a versatile player who does a little bit of everything and an average player who doesn’t excel at any particular skill. For the Blue Devils this season, Wendell Moore Jr. has been treading that thin line ever since the beginning. The No. 1 ranked recruit from North Carolina could be very inefficient and unproductive at times, as we saw in the games against Kansas and Georgia State where he shot a combined 18.2 percent from the field and turned the ball over more times than he scored.
However, the game might be finally slowing down for the freshman after Coach K inserted him into the starting lineup for the first time against California. Compared with the first four games he played off the bench where he only tallied six points per contest, Moore boosted his performance over the past three games, averaging 12 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists while shooting 54.5 percent from the field and 50 percent from the perimeter. He turned in his best outing against Georgetown, helping Duke overcome an early 10-point deficit with a season-high 17 points.
Even though his stats regressed a little bit against Stephen F. Austin, the freshman battled until the end, grabbing an offensive rebound for the Blue Devils and fiercely hustling down to the ground during the final possession of the game. If Moore can turn the defeat into motivation and carry on the improvements he displayed on both ends of the floor, Duke will surely have a less hectic night at Cameron on Friday.
Winthrop: Forward D.J. Burns
A lot of the Cameron Crazies who witnessed the heartbreaker on Tuesday must be reminiscing about that powerful 285-pound forward from South Carolina who can always deliver in crunch time. Yes, Zion Williamson is long gone, but the visiting Eagles have someone who bears a striking resemblance in the name of D.J. Burns. A former four-star recruit coming out of Williamson's home state, the redshirt freshman not only plays a similar position to Williamson but also has an imposing 6-foot-9, 260-pound body. In fact, during one of his pre-college visits to the University of South Carolina, the fans mistook him as Williamson and started chanting “We want Zion”.
Burns is the key player off the bench for the Eagles and has proven to be an efficient big man in the paint over his team's first seven games, shooting an impressive 62.1 percent from the field. Among all the Division One players this year that average less than 17 minutes of floor time, Burns’ consistent output of 12.6 points per game stands second in the category. During the Eagles' last game against Pfeiffer, Burns took care of business in spectacular fashion with a team-high 19 points and eight rebounds in just 16 minutes. Expect the big man to create some trouble for Blue Devils Vernon Carey Jr. and Javin DeLaurier in the paint on Friday.