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Key three: Duke men's basketball needs to defend from deep against Virginia Tech

<p>Javin DeLaurier played his best basketball of the season against Michigan State Tuesday.</p>

Javin DeLaurier played his best basketball of the season against Michigan State Tuesday.

As the Blue Devils start conference play, the Blue Zone gives you three keys to Friday's game against Virginia Tech:

Defend from beyond the arc

If there is one thing that can have a major impact in a big time upset, it's a team's ability to shoot from 3-point range, and the Hokies are more than capable. Virginia Tech ranks third in the country in shooting efficiency from deep by hitting 43.1% of its 3-point attempts. In their win against then No. 3 Michigan State, the Hokies hit just under half of their shots from beyond the arc. Additionally, five of Virginia Tech's nine rotation players shoot above 40% from 3-point range and could make a difference in a close game.

Stay mentally tough

Nothing quite matches the physicality needed for ACC play, and Duke's trio of healthy freshmen will have to adjust quickly in a hostile environment. In last season's conference opener against Clemson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish both struggled mightily against tougher ACC players, and this year the Blue Devils don't have Zion Williamson to bail them out. However, the road win over the Spartans should be enough preparation for Duke to not get overwhelmed in what will certainly be a raucous Cassell Coliseum.

Shut down Landers Nolley II

Few players in the ACC have been as good scoring the ball as Landers Nolley II this year, and Wendell Moore should have a tough test in defending him. The freshman wing ranks third in the conference in scoring with 20.0 points per contest. Nolley has a 6-foot-7 frame with guard skills and range on his jump shot, a combination that already gave Duke fits when Stephen F. Austin's Kevon Harris dropped 26 points in a win over the Blue Devils. Moore, who played just 10 minutes against Michigan State, has to play well enough to stay on the court Friday night to keep Nolley from carrying the Hokies.