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Three points: Duke men's basketball must be strong on defense and on the glass against Gonzaga

Sophomore center Mark Williams will be instrumental in securing rebounds, which figures to be key against Gonzaga.
Sophomore center Mark Williams will be instrumental in securing rebounds, which figures to be key against Gonzaga.

In one of the college basketball season's most anticipated matchups, No. 5 Duke men's basketball faces top-ranked Gonzaga in Las Vegas for the Continental Tire Challenge on Friday night. The Blue Zone takes a look at three key points that will be crucial for the Blue Devils:

Off-Ball defense

With its tough and gritty on-ball defense, Duke has been quite effective in stopping opposing ball handlers. However, in their last matchup against The Citadel, Duke allowed a total of 18 three-pointers due to the team’s inability to lock down the Bulldogs’ ball movement, leaving their catch-and-shoot offense wide open on a number of plays. With Gonzaga’s developed inside-out game, the team will need to defend those on the opposing side who are ready to catch and make a wide open shot on the perimeter, as well as the duo of Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren in the paint, who are always ready to attack the rim. This will ensure Duke’s defense is allowing the fewest number of points and plays possible on each possession.

Get the boards 

Duke has had an efficient offense inside the paint because of its talented and athletic front court, but it’s really the rebounding instinct that will change the game. While offensive efficiency may be hard to estimate given the high volume of shots taken each night, offensive rebounding, which gives Duke a second chance on each possession, can allow more shots to be taken in the limited time frame, thanks to the extra 20 seconds added to the shot clock. Defensive rebounding will also be crucial for Friday night, as it would effectively prevent Gonzaga from a large number of putbacks and second possessions like it utilized against UCLA Tuesday night.

Consistency is key 

Duke has been strong in the second half, as the team’s offense finds consistency and gains late-game momentum. However, Gonzaga, as a dominant team on both ends of the floor, won’t allow a late-game comeback, as the lead was built against UCLA early in the game and has sustained until the game is over. That’s why Duke’s shot selection and decision making on every possession can make a fundamental impact on the following plays, as well as on the outcome of the game.

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