Preview: Duke men's basketball looking to continue momentum against a formidable Syracuse offense

<p>Matthew Hurt is 14-for-19 from 3-point range over his last three games.</p>

Matthew Hurt is 14-for-19 from 3-point range over his last three games.

Duke will host Syracuse Monday at 7 p.m. in an exciting conference matchup that is critical for both teams riding three-game winning streaks and looking to solidify a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Here are some key storylines ahead of the Blue Devils’ matchup with the Orange.

Offensive firepower

With the Orange and Blue Devils ranking 2nd and 3rd in the ACC for points scored per game, respectively, this game is shaping up to be a shoot-out. 

Syracuse has five players all averaging 10 or more points per game. Forwards Alan Griffin, Quincy Guerrier and guard Buddy Boeheim compose a three-headed monster as they each average over 15 points per game and shoot at least 30% from downtown. Boeheim is especially dangerous after a lights-out 29-point performance in a come-from-behind win against Notre Dame Saturday. 

The Orange (13-6, 7-5 in the ACC) have a knack for getting to the free-throw line, doing it 349 times this season. Syracuse also ranks No. 1 in the ACC in free throw shooting percentage. The Blue Devils have done a better job minimizing fouls as of late, and they will have to do the same Monday or the Orange will capitalize. 

Duke (10-8, 8-6 in the ACC) has only two active players averaging double-digit points per game, but one of them is forward Matthew Hurt. The sophomore has been phenomenal from 3-point range all season, and even more so recently, shooting 14-for-19 from deep in his last three games. The Blue Devils will look for continued consistency from Hurt in their attack against Syracuse’s zone defense. 

“We play Monday night against a really good Syracuse team.. We have to get ready for that,” Hurt emphasized.

Duke’s improved defense

After being exposed on the defensive end by allowing over 90 points to Notre Dame and North Carolina, Duke seems to have turned over a new leaf. The Blue Devils have held their last three opponents to 65 points or less. 

Senior guard Jordan Goldwire has definitely stepped up, forcing four steals against an experienced Virginia team. His matchup against Syracuse’s talented guard Joseph Girard III will be important to keep an eye on. 

Duke’s youth has risen to the occasion a huge way. Freshmen DJ Steward, Jeremy Roach, Jaemyn Brakefield, Henry Coleman and Mark Williams have been integral players for the Blue Devils recently. Brakefield recorded a season-high 29 minutes against the Cavaliers and had a staggering game-high four blocks, one of them coming in the game’s intense final moments. 

Williams has asserted himself as a presence in multiple games this season, but Coleman and Brakefield are newer to the scene. Syracuse does not have big men like Jay Huff or Sam Hauser, but forwards Marek Dolezaj, Guerrier and Griffin will be a handful for the Blue Devils to contain, and these Duke freshmen will be some of the first in line for the job. 

The Blue Devils will look to their talented young players to again rise to the occasion and their few experienced players to contribute as they look to secure their fourth consecutive win.


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