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Beyond the arc: Duke men's basketball survives late scare against Pittsburgh

Tre Jones has 14 assists and just one turnover over his last two games
Tre Jones has 14 assists and just one turnover over his last two games

Duke has gotten back on track and with a thrilling 79-67 win over Pittsburgh, moving to 7-2 in the ACC. The Blue Zone gives you three key takeaways, stats and looks forward for the Blue Devils:

Three key takeaways:

Panthers keep it interesting

The Blue Devils employed their residual motivation from their recent two-loss week to start the game on the right foot, entering halftime with a comfortable 11-point lead. That lead increased to 18 points with just under 14 minutes to play, which seemed like the nail in the coffin for Pittsburgh. However, the Panthers clawed their way back into the game with a scorching 16-4 run in the latter part of the second half, eventually getting within three points of the Blue Devils. 

This run served as a figurative slap in the face for Duke, which had fallen asleep at the wheel, though the Blue Devils would promptly pull back ahead to secure the win. However, this late-game push displayed Pittsburgh and head coach Jeff Capel’s fight and determination in a game lesser teams would have given up on.

Carey on, carey on

After a stretch of less-than-stellar performances, it seems Vernon Carey Jr. is back to his usual self. By far the team’s leading scorer Tuesday night, the Florida native dropped 26 points, his second highest mark of the season. On top of being a persistent offensive force, Carey grabbed 13 total rebounds, culminating in his ninth double-double of the season. Tre Jones may be the leader and facilitator for Duke, but without Carey consistently taking over in the paint, this team would lack the firepower necessary to take over games.

Duke can shoot when needed

One of Pittsburgh’s defensive tactics was to force the Blue Devils to shoot from deep, an area they have been somewhat unreliable from. The Panthers utilized a 2-3 zone to focus their energy on inside scoring threats like Carey, which, judging from his 26 points, didn’t work either. On top of the overpowering inside scoring, Duke was able to take advantage of its open looks, draining nine threes, seven of which came in the first half. This just goes to show that the Blue Devils are capable of knocking them down from 3-point range, just not always when they’re needed most.

Three key stats:

Zero turnovers for Tre

Jones was on fire against Pittsburgh, but what else is new? Despite playing all 40 minutes of Tuesday night’s contest, Jones finished with no turnovers, a testament to his improved ball handling and playmaking. With an average of 6.8 assists per game that places ninth in the country, Jones has distinguished himself as an elite point guard and one that can lead Duke to great heights.

Career-high 13 points for Goldwire

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski has been taking a calculated risk by dramatically increasing Jordan Goldwire’s minutes over the last two months, but it is clearly paying off. With 35 minutes against the Panthers, tied for the most of his career, Goldwire set a new standard for himself with 13 points on an efficient 4-for-9 shooting percentage. Along with five rebounds and three assists, Goldwire has improved from a role player to a reliable starter in just a few months.

Nine turnovers for each team

This game was fast-paced, efficient and nearly void of needless mistakes. The nine turnovers committed by each team was well under Duke and Pittsburgh’s season averages of 13.3 and 12.2 turnovers per game, respectively. Turnovers can make or break a game. Fortunately, these two teams were both able to play to the best of their abilities, making for the most accurate competition of skill and strength.

Looking forward:

Duke will look to continue its new win streak in its next game against Syracuse, which is 6-4 in ACC. Coming off their first loss in the last six games, the Orange can either come out defeated or hungry. If they start the game weak, the Blue Devils can make quick work of them and put the game away in the first half. However, Syracuse took the Blue Devils by surprise last season and head coach Jim Boeheim's squad is fully capable of doing it again if given the opportunity.

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