Duke men's basketball hits the road again, this time taking on the Fighting Irish in South Bend, Ind. After taking home wins against Clemson and Louisville, the Blue Zone brings three keys for the Blue Devils to keep that streak going:
Consistency is key
No matter how much the Blue Devils are able to dominate, their intensity comes in waves. Against Louisville, Duke started off red-hot, leading by 16 within five minutes. Things went downhill from there. In just the first half, Mark Williams got in early foul trouble and played less than 10 minutes, Paolo Banchero was held to five points, and the team made 1-of-5 of their free throw attempts. The game remained close through most of the second half until Duke was able to pull away with a 12-0 run, largely due to two AJ Griffin threes.
Inconsistency in Duke’s level of play has been a weakness all season. While in many games their power in the paint and defensive ability has been enough to overcome sloppy play and missed shots, it has cost them three losses. Notre Dame, though they have their own fair share of tough losses, is currently third in the ACC. They beat then-No. 10 Kentucky in December and have won 10 of their last 11 games. This is a team that will take advantage of a lull in Duke’s intensity, as they did against N.C. State with a 15-0 run in just three minutes. The Blue Devils are fully capable of playing at an elite level–they just need to sustain it.
The Williams-Banchero duo has been a nightmare for opposing offenses and defenses. Their scoring ability in the paint has been the heart of Duke’s offensive attack, and their knack for rebounding has helped to mend one of the Blue Devil’s most apparent early-season weaknesses. The pair both turned in double-doubles against Louisville, with Williams recording 14 points and 11 rebounds and Banchero tallying 11 points and 15 rebounds. This was the fifth double-double of the season for each of the two: Williams’ second in a row and Banchero’s third in four games.
The Fighting Irish have their own double-double threat in forward Nate Laszewski. He has four already on the season, the most recent of which was an 18-point, 11-rebound performance in Notre Dame’s win against N.C. State. Senior Paul Atkinson Jr. has two double-doubles of his own, against High Point and Indiana. The battle at the rim will be a good one as both teams fight hard for rebounds, though Duke as of recently has made it a larger focus in its game.
What do you think of when you hear AJ Griffin? His Cinderella story of returning from injury and earning a spot in the starting lineup? That first game in the starting five, when he scored 22 points and went 8-of-11 from the field? The fact that he doesn’t have a picture on ESPN? Anyone who watched Duke beat Louisville will say his five made 3-pointers on a perfect shooting day, including a buzzer-beater at the end of the first half that put Duke up by five. Griffin put on a shooting clinic, scoring 22 and injecting life into his team when they desperately needed it. He is shooting 50% from the arc this season and is Duke’s best shooter. When he is hot, he can’t be stopped.
On the other hand, to put it simply, Notre Dame is a good 3-point team. Junior Dane Goodwin has five straight games with at least two made threes. His worst 3-point percentage over that span was against N.C. State, where he went 4-for-7. Fellow junior Laszewski is also skilled from the arc; he sunk six of his seven attempts against North Carolina earlier this month. In their 10 games with double-digit team threes, they have won them all. They have made 14 or more long shots in three games so far and show no signs of slowing down. That offensive power and efficiency may well devastate Duke as it has only made 15 shots from the arc once, in their 41-point rout of South Carolina State.
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