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Key three: Duke men's basketball must defend the perimeter against Notre Dame

Freshman Jalen Johnson has been one of Duke's most exciting players all year, but he's also had his fair share of subpar performances.
Freshman Jalen Johnson has been one of Duke's most exciting players all year, but he's also had his fair share of subpar performances.

In December, Duke cruised to a 10-point win in South Bend, Ind., against Notre Dame. Since that meeting, both teams have had their share of ups and downs, making Tuesday's matchup in Cameron Indoor Stadium all the more interesting

Guard the guards

The Blue Devils have struggled to defend the perimeter since the start of the season, and the result has been many wide open threes for their opponents. The loss to North Carolina was no different, in which the Tar Heels, despite being an average 3-point shooting team, were able to shoot a whopping 66.7% from deep. On top of that, Duke struggled to guard Notre Dame’s 3-point shooters, especially junior guard Dane Goodwin, during its last matchup in South Bend, so the squad will have to lock down the Fighting Irish in a more efficient way this time around.

Decision making

One of the key problems during this year’s underwhelming season has been decision making. Over the team's last two matchups, two costly last-minute mistakes by both Jalen Johnson and Wendell Moore Jr. ultimately decided each respective game. The former chose to pass the ball instead of getting off a potential buzzer-beating shot against Miami, and Moore’s costly last-second travel shattered Duke’s hopes of taking down North Carolina.

Such endings also could have been avoidable if the team had been smarter with its shot selection and mitigated its turnovers throughout the entirety of the game. A more efficient performance prior to the waning minutes would remove the need to make a clutch shot in the end to win or tie the game. 

Momentum

While this year’s team has had many leads and opportunities to win throughout the season, Duke has not always been able to hold on while ahead. That phenomenon is often an issue for teams with a young core, and while a lead may allow a team to play more relaxed, it can also make a squad prone to more mistakes. The Blue Devils will need to learn to keep the momentum if they hope to snap their win streak Tuesday night.

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