The independent news organization of Duke University

X-Factor: Duke men's basketball's Alex O'Connell looks to make the most of his minutes against Notre Dame

O'Connell has scored 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field and 3-of-5 from three over his last two games
O'Connell has scored 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field and 3-of-5 from three over his last two games

After probably giving every Blue Devil fan at least three heart attacks over the last week, Duke will host the Notre Dame Fighting Irish this Saturday in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Zone gives you one player to watch out for on each team:

Duke: Guard Alex O’Connell

Alex O’Connell has been used sparingly this season. His peak in usage came during winter break against Wofford and Brown in which he averaged 23.5 minutes and 11.5 points over the two contests. Although he's averaged only 10.5 minutes per game since, that hasn’t stopped the junior guard from contributing. Against Miami, he put up eight points in five minutes, following that performance up with 11 points in 15 minutes against Syracuse two games later. O’Connell has proven that he can be effective on any number of minutes, so it’s up to head coach Mike Krzyzewski regarding how much he wants to get out of him.

O’Connell’s efficient production is fueled by his versatile range and strict shot selection. Knowing he can be pulled from the game at any moment means he can’t be taking reckless low-percentage shots. He has been known to make big threes, but the majority of his points come from mid-range. No matter where he decides to attack from, O’Connell will be a major factor in this contest. Notre Dame would be foolish to overlook him.

Notre Dame: Guard T.J. Gibbs

By far Notre Dame’s best shooter from deep, T.J. Gibbs will pose a major threat to the Blue Devils if they allow him to heat up. He boasts a 42.1 percent mark from 3-point range and has shot over half of his attempts this season from beyond the arc. Duke will have to play aggressive defense on him to prevent easy pull-up jumpers, but if the Blue Devils become too aggressive, they’ll find themselves with a whole new problem: Gibbs is Notre Dame’s best free throw shooter (with more than two attempts) at 89.8 percent.

Always second from the top on the box score, Gibbs is often overshadowed by forward John Mooney, the Fighting Irish's leading scorer and rebounder. However, Gibbs is the yin to Mooney’s yang, in that while Mooney is hammering the post, Gibbs will be waiting up top for a quick catch-and-shoot bucket. The duo operates as opposites, which places a critical threat at two key positions on the court.

Comments