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Key three: Duke men's basketball must start strong against Virginia Tech

<p>After shaking off rust against N.C. State, Cassius Stanley could be the key to early energy against the Hokies.</p>

After shaking off rust against N.C. State, Cassius Stanley could be the key to early energy against the Hokies.

After a shocking loss to unranked North Carolina State, the Blue Devils must regroup as they return home to face off against another unranked ACC opponent in Virginia Tech. The Blue Zone analyzes three keys for Duke to shake off the loss and get back in the win column:

Come out with high energy

Duke has been no stranger to slow starts this season, and that trend came back to bite in a big way Wednesday night against N.C. State. The Wolfpack stormed out to a 10-1 lead in the opening minutes and only seemed to bounce back with even more fire every time the Blue Devils offered a response. The last match-up against Virginia Tech also saw Duke fall behind by 12 early before rallying late. At home, the Blue Devils must feed off of the Cameron Crazies and avoid a sluggish start if they do not want to drop two games in a row. 

Shooting needs to improve

Poor shooting across the board doomed any chance of a Duke comeback against the Wolfpack. For a team that averages 47.9 percent shooting from the field, 35.1 percent from deep and 69.2 percent from the line, the Blue Devils put up an absolute dud of a shooting performance Wednesday. After seven different Blue Devils drained three pointers against Notre Dame, perhaps Duke was due for some regression to the mean. 

Regardless, there needs to be more production than the six bench points Duke posted in PNC Arena for the Blue Devils to defeat a Virginia Tech squad hungry for a bounce back victory.

Shut down Landers Nolley II

Much of Virginia Tech’s offense runs through freshman Landers Nolley II, who serves as the Hokies’ leading scorer and rebounder. The Hurricanes largely frustrated the 6-foot-7 guard throughout their game Wednesday night, limiting him to one made 3-pointer on eight attempts. Nolley’s 4-of-21 shooting night forced other Virginia Tech players to step up, but it kept the Hokies from running their desired gameplan and ultimately led to their defeat. 

Limiting Nolley was crucial in Duke’s last victory at Virginia Tech as he was held to just seven points and committed nine turnovers. Keeping him off of the stat sheet will go a long way for the Blue Devils' defense Saturday night.