After coming out of the two-week break with a bang against South Carolina State Tuesday, Duke squares off with Appalachian State in an in-state battle. Ahead of Thursday's game, we bring you three keys to the game:
Duke made its return to competition this week after a two-week hiatus. While the Blue Devils' last game ended in a tough loss on the road against Ohio State, their return with a 103-62 victory against S.C. State proves that this roster is not messing around. The team played well all around, shooting an exceptional 22-of-24 at the charity stripe, 55.6% from deep and managing an overall 55.9% field goal percentage while almost every player who saw the floor added some points to the scoreboard.
In their second game back in competition since the break, the Blue Devils will take on in-state foe Appalachian State. The Mountaineers travel to Durham for their first premier game this season. Last season, the Mountaineers only took on one ranked team—then-No. 10 Tennessee—a matchup they suffered a 79-38 blow in. The squad has not seen any ranked competition this year, so Duke is the defending Sun Belt champions' first real test in how they can hold up against a powerhouse. Yet, given Duke’s performance Tuesday night and Appalachian State’s mediocre 6-5 start, expect another Blue Devil domination if the team puts on the same show they did with the Bulldogs.
Though fans know that this team is not invincible, a game against the Mountaineers should be no trouble for Duke. Appalachian State does not have a specific edge that they are known for and is quite likely to play the copycat game come Thursday night. And though Duke has briefly lost graduate student Theo John to a back injury, its starting five and impressively deep bench flies in as ready as ever. Plus, with one more win against South Carolina State, the Blue Devils are as recharged and ready as they ever can be to take on the rest of their season with force.
Grab the rebound
One of the places that will be of great importance in this match is the Mountaineers’ success in rebounding. Appalachian State trails close behind Duke's 39.0 per game at 37.3 rebounds per game. Even in games it lost, the group has stayed competitive and recorded more rebounds than the opponents who beat them.
A performance like their victory versus South Carolina State saw the opposition manage more rebounds than the Blue Devils garnered, so it’s clear that even in the area that the Mountaineers play the best, Duke’s defense and precision in avoiding fouls when going for the rebound will be instrumental. Mountaineer guards Adrian Delph and James Lewis Jr., will be aggressive on the glass, leaving it up to Duke’s lineup to get to it first. As long as Duke can prevent Appalachian State rebounds and play a pinpointed job when taking the ball, then its opposition won’t even hold a candle to the Blue Devils' squad.
Though this App State team may not feature the likes of McDonald’s All Americans, it has one special thing going for it—depth. Groups of this caliber typically invoke a small ball game against competition like Duke because they need to utilize their best players as much as possible to remain competitive. However, Appalachian State plays a different way than the norm. Almost every player on the team has seen a load of playing time this year, as 11 players average double digits in minutes per game.
Though the Mountaineers' top players run the court the most, Duke can’t get too comfortable on defense with who it’s guarding, even when head coach Dustin Kerns empties the bench. Almost every player who sees court time contributes something to the game—whether through defending, playmaking, rebounding or scoring. The Blue Devils are the clear favorite in this game, but for them to play their best version possible, they cannot underestimate what the Mountaineers roster brings to the table.
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Ana Young is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle’s 118th volume.