After a disappointing loss to Clemson, the Blue Devils will be tested as Louisville comes to town for a top-15 matchup. The Blue Zone looks at three keys for No. 3 Duke to get back in the win column:
Rev up the defense
For a team that head coach Mike Krzyzewski hoped to have defense as its identity, the Blue Devils looked nothing of the sort against a hungry Tigers squad that was fresh off of defeating the struggling Tar Heels. After holding its previous seven opponents under 65 points, Duke fell absolutely flat from the get-go, allowing 40 points in the first half and 79 for the game. Many of the points came as a result of easy baskets in the paint, as Clemson caught the Blue Devils napping time and time again with a barrage of backdoor cuts on its way to 38 points in the paint. Led by the brilliant scoring of big men Aamir Simms and Tevin Mack, who put in 25 and 22 points, respectively, the Tigers hit a phenomenal 57 percent of their shots. That number that simply has to go down for Duke going forward.
Keep the whole squad on the floor
Contributing to the success of Clemson’s offense was a case of foul trouble, as senior Jack White and freshmen Cassius Stanley and Vernon Carey Jr. all finished the game with four fouls, with Stanley having to sit extended minutes on the bench in the second half as a result. White and Carey were forced to play cautiously down the stretch, stifling any chance of a comeback in the waning minutes. Furthermore, the ineffectiveness of freshman forward Matthew Hurt, who struggled to defend the stronger Clemson big men and logged just 15 minutes and two points in one of his quietest games of the season, certainly threw a wrench into Duke’s offensive gameplan. With the rotation already limited by Wendell Moore’s broken hand and with sharpshooter Joey Baker out for the game, the Blue Devils looked out of sync on both ends of the floor. For a team that regularly plays 10 men per game, Duke has to get back to relying on its strength of depth in the future—the expected return of Baker against Louisville should help.
Make free throws
As is often the Achilles’ heel for talented college squads, poor free throw shooting came back to bite the Blue Devils against Clemson. Duke shot a dismal 50 percent on 10-of-20 from the line, including a 4-of-9 performance from the otherwise-dominant Carey. The inability to drain freebies at the charity stripe also played a major part in the Blue Devils’ first loss of the season against Stephen F. Austin, a game in which the freshman center went 4-of-11 from the charity stripe. For many fans, it had seemed that his free throw woes may have been behind him, as he went 24-of-30 from the line in the four games immediately following the loss to Stephen F. Austin, but his free throw percentage has dipped back down below 60 percent. That being said, the lackluster free throw shooting was not just due to one player. The entire squad must do their part if Duke hopes to bounce back on Saturday.