Duke: Forward Wendell Moore Jr.
Coming off of three consecutive losses, all decided by four points or less, the Blue Devils are in desperate need of regaining the .500 mark. On Tuesday, Duke lost on its home floor to Notre Dame in a game that was marked by poor on-ball defense, but incredibly efficient scoring.
Sophomore forward Wendell Moore Jr. was no exception, tallying 24 points on 56.3% shooting from the floor. The skilled Charlotte native started off the season inconsistently but has recently found his groove, averaging 19.0 points in his last three games. Duke fans should hope for Moore to continue this trend, but in a winning effort this time.
Facing off against an N.C. State team with an 8-8 record, Duke will need to rely on Moore to help maintain its high-powered offense. Five-star freshman Jalen Johnson has not started the past two games and has been unreliable and turnover-prone in his limited minutes. Alongside leading scorer Matthew Hurt, Moore will need to assert himself early, just as he did in the first half against Notre Dame. The sophomore forward will need to attack the paint against the undersized Wolfpack and continue his hot shooting from the perimeter.
N.C. State: Forward DJ Funderburk
N.C. State recently lost their leading scorer, guard Devon Daniels, to a season-ending ACL tear and as a result, head coach Kevin Keatts has had to shuffle his starting lineup to find the best replacement for Daniels. Despite this, the Wolfpack remains the fifth-best offense in the conference with their 74.8 points per game and has relied on the scoring of forwards Jericole Hellems, Manny Bates and of course, senior DJ Funderburk. Although Funderburk primarily comes off of the bench, the experienced sixth-man often plays just as long as a starter and has remained a reliable producer.
The 6-foot-10 forward averages 12.0 points per game and 5.2 rebounds. Though not a perimeter shooter, Funderburk shoots 57.8% from the field and an impressive 85.5% from the free throw line. Considering the Cleveland, Ohio native is playing against a struggling Duke defense that is ranked second-to-last in the ACC and gave up 93 points in their last outing, expect Funderburk to be aggressive near the basket.
The senior’s 225-pound frame will likely allow him to overpower the likes of Hurt, Mark Williams or whoever else the Blue Devils elect to guard him. In his last game against Duke, Funderburk will need to be a key contributor if the Wolfpack wants to come away victorious.