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Three points: Duke men's basketball needs a fast start to get past Lafayette at home

Mark Williams had a career-high six blocks Tuesday against Gardner-Webb.
Mark Williams had a career-high six blocks Tuesday against Gardner-Webb.

Duke is back at Cameron Indoor Stadium once again Friday for an evening matchup against Lafayette. After Tuesday’s victory against Gardner-Webb, the Blue Zone is here with three key points that can guide the No. 7 Blue Devils to another win:

Mighty Mark

At the end of the 2020-2021 season, Mark Williams was arguably playing like Duke's most valuable player. Over the last six games of the season, Williams averaged 16.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. His most notable performance was in the ACC tournament against Louisville, when he posted career-highs of 23 points and 19 rebounds. It was great news when Williams announced that he would return for this season as the Blue Devils would be set with an aggressive center. 

Prior to his performance Tuesday against Gardner-Webb, Williams had been rather quiet to start the season. In fact, he did not have any points Saturday against Campbell. However, he turned things around against Gardner-Webb with 13 points and a career-high six blocks as the sophomore center was a force in the paint that was able to effectively protect the basket. This type of performance is what should be expected of Williams given his late success in 2020-21. If he is able to consistently play at this level, it will be hard to find another program with a better group of big men, as Williams is joined by five-star freshman Paolo Banchero and graduate transfer Theo John. A strong performance from Williams against Lafayette would likely translate to a victory for the Blue Devils.

Faster start

It is evident that the Blue Devils have been struggling in the game's opening minutes thus far, as rebounding and scoring have not appeared to come easy to them early on in each contest. Against Gardner-Webb, Duke was only able to rack up five points in the first five minutes, and the same thing happened just three days earlier against Campbell.

These slow starts allowed the Runnin' Bulldogs and Fighting Camels to stay in the game. The Blue Devils need to take advantage of their talent in the first few minutes of the game in order to establish what type of game it is going to be. If Duke is able to do this against Lafayette, it will be better prepared for its upcoming nonconference and conference matchups, where they likely will not have the luxury of starting slow.

Keels for three

Prior to the season, the expectation was that Trevor Keels would be an elite shooter, perhaps among the best in the country. But even in a stellar debut against Kentucky, Keels was underwhelming from beyond the arc. The freshman guard was great from deep, however, against Campbell and Gardner-Webb, sinking 2-of-5 threes against the Fighting Camels and 4-of-6 triples against the Runnin' Bulldogs.

It’s clear that Keels, the former Gatorade Player of the Year in Virginia, is starting to heat up. Shooting will be key for the Blue Devils against a disciplined Lafayette squad, and if Keels is able to dominate from long range Friday, Duke should head into the weekend with a 5-0 record.

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