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X-Factor: Duke men's basketball needs Wendell Moore Jr. as a scoring threat against N.C. State

<p>Wendell Moore Jr. has elevated his game in ACC play.</p>

Wendell Moore Jr. has elevated his game in ACC play.

Duke suffered one of the worst losses in the Mike Krzyzewski era Feb. 19 at North Carolina State, losing by 22 points. Following three losses to unranked teams in their last four games, the Blue Devils will seek revenge in their penultimate regular season game at home against the Wolfpack. The Blue Zone gives you a player to watch from each team Monday night:

Duke: Forward Wendell Moore Jr.

In Saturday’s loss to Virginia, Duke scored a measly 50 points, 34 of which were attributed to season-leading scorers Tre Jones and Vernon Carey Jr. Similarly, in the first loss against N.C. State, the same two stars accounted for 44 of the team’s 66 points. It's clear that Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils face a key problem: who can reliably step up as the third scoring option?

Wendell Moore Jr. is only Duke’s fifth leading scorer with 7.7 points per game, but has shown flashes of brilliance for the Blue Devils of late. At Wake Forest Tuesday, Moore led Duke with 25 points, including shooting a remarkable 15 of 16 from the free throw line. In the legendary win over North Carolina, Moore not only hit the game-winning shot, but also chipped in 17 points. 

Moore can use his driving abilities to become a top-3 option for this Duke offense, but he needs to show greater consistency. With Carey fouling out in both of last week’s matchups, the Blue Devils will need another scorer to support the offense if their star center fouls out late in games.

N.C. State: Guard C.J. Bryce

With an NCAA tournament berth on the line, N.C. State has tremendous incentive to bring their A-game to Cameron Indoor Stadium. Head coach Kevin Keatts’ team has been led this season by a starting backcourt of C.J. Bryce and Markell Johnson, each averaging over 13 points per game. Bryce has been a consistent scorer this season, but struggled to leave his mark in the Wolfpack's win over Duke. In 32 minutes, Bryce produced just seven points on 30 percent shooting with zero assists.

The senior guard has had some success against Duke in the past, however. While at UNC Wilmington earlier in his career, Bryce scored 16 points on 6 of 8 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds in a first-round NCAA tournament loss to Grayson Allen and the Blue Devils. Last year with N.C. State, he scored 25 points on 5-of-10 shooting and grabbed five rebounds in a 94-78 loss to Duke. 

The Wolfpack routed the Blue Devils without a big game from Bryce less than two weeks ago, and if he’s able to step it up, N.C. State could feasibly add a second win over Duke and improve its current bubble status.


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