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Key three: Offensive efficiency is king in Duke men's basketball's next matchup versus Miami

DJ Steward has really broken out of his shell of recent and is turning into one of Duke's primary scorers.
DJ Steward has really broken out of his shell of recent and is turning into one of Duke's primary scorers.

After a well-rounded effort from Duke in its 79-53 victory over Clemson on Saturday, the Blue Devils will need to continue improving their game as a whole in order to secure a victory against Miami this Monday. The Blue Zone provides you with the three things most important to their next game: 

Handle the perimeter

Miami may be short handed due to injury, but head coach Jim Larrañaga’s teams are always strong on the perimeter, and this squad is no different. The Hurricanes have been prolific from 3-point range in their last two games, shooting 39.1 percent and 56.3 percent against Florida State and Wake Forest, respectively. Miami’s guards Isaiah Wong and Kameron Mcgusty are sharp shooters that shot a combined 7-for-11 from downtown in their last loss against Wake Forest. Duke guards DJ Steward, Jordan Goldwire and Jeremy Roach will have the tough task of slowing these two down. 

The Blue Devils need to spark some perimeter shooting of their own as well. The paint presence of forwards Matthew Hurt and Jalen Johnson have created open shots on the perimeter, but Duke has not been able to knock them down consistently, shooting just over 32.3 percent in its blowout win against Clemson. If Joey Baker, Steward, Roach and everyone else on the perimeter can start knocking down more of these open shots, the Blue Devils will open their offense up significantly. 

If Duke hopes to continue the recent trend of strong starts, it will need to win the 3-point battle. 

Own the paint

The recent success of freshman center Mark Williams has given the Blue Devils an entirely new look on both ends of the floor. The seven-footer has anchored down the paint in the past two games, making big plays on the boards and in the post, which has freed other players to move around and find their groove. Williams has a unique opportunity against the Hurricanes, because they do not have many big men. Their only active center did not start and failed to score in Miami’s last contest. Williams posted double digits in the scoring category against Clemson for the first time this season, and he will certainly be looking to attack the bucket against the Hurricanes. 

It is also important for Duke to win the rebounding battle. Wake Forest was able to beat Miami largely because they out-rebounded the Hurricanes 39-30, with Miami only getting three offensive rebounds the entire game. The Blue Devils allowed Clemson to grab 11 offensive rebounds on Saturday. With Miami’s dangerously efficient shooters, it is essential that Duke minimizes second chances for the Hurricanes. The Blue Devils’ rebounding has been a team effort, with five players grabbing four or more rebounds against Clemson. The Hurricanes operate in similar fashion, with three players grabbing five rebounds or more, two of them being guards. With all of Miami’s players crashing the boards, all of Duke’s players, not just the big men, must contribute to win the rebounding game. 

Stay out of Foul Trouble

After committing 20 or more fouls in three straight losses, the Blue Devils turned things around, committing just 10 and 13 in their last two games. Keeping the foul count low has been instrumental to the last two victories for Duke because it minimizes free points for its opponents through free throws, and it keeps key Blue Devils out of foul trouble. Hurt and Johnson frequently play the five-position and this increased time in the paint often causes them to pick up many of Duke’s fouls. This is particularly dangerous for the Blue Devils because Hurt and Johnson are two of their top scorers. Duke certainly missed Johnson in the final minutes against Pittsburgh and Hurt against Louisville when they fouled out. Keeping the pair out of foul trouble and on the court has been huge for the Blue Devils in the last two games. 

Although Miami lost to Wake Forest by 12 points, the Hurricanes shot 1-for-8 from the free throw line. These are easy points that the Hurricanes will not always leave on the table. It is important for Duke to hit its share of free throws, because if Miami has a more efficient night from the free throw line, this Hurricane team can close the margin and become much more dangerous than many expect. 

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