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Three points: AJ Griffin, perimeter defense can lift Blue Devils past Georgia Tech

A strong performance from Griffin off the bench will be instrumental in the Blue Devils' second ACC game of the season.
A strong performance from Griffin off the bench will be instrumental in the Blue Devils' second ACC game of the season.

After an extended break following COVID-19 issues within the program, Duke men's basketball returns against Georgia Tech Tuesday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium. In anticipation, the Blue Zone brings three keys for success against the Yellow Jackets:

Shut down Devoe

Georgia Tech’s star this season is undoubtedly senior Michael Devoe. The guard is averaging over 21 points per game, making up a large fraction of the Yellow Jackets’ offense. Devoe already has two games with over 30 points this season, including his 33-point showing in the team’s loss to No. 23 Wisconsin, in which he went 5-of-10 from beyond the arc. Early in the season, teams were able to shoot on Duke; the Citadel set a Cameron Indoor Stadium record with 18 made threes by an opponent back in November. 

Recently, however, those shots have not been falling. Virginia Tech made just over 26% of its 3-point shots against the Blue Devils. Appalachian State fared similarly, sinking almost 31% of its long shots. Against South Carolina State, while Duke made 15-of-27 three-point attempts, its opponent went 4-of-20. This same perimeter defense must be employed against Devoe. The less open looks he gets, the better for the Blue Devils. 

Start strong, finish strong

It’s a new year for the Blue Devils. The team hasn’t played in 12 days following issues with COVID-19 in the program. They have had plenty slower first halves this season, including their last game against Virginia Tech, in which they were down by four at the half. Duke always has to shake a little rust off to really get going, and against Georgia Tech this effect will only be compounded. This has been its second longest stretch without a game this season after more than two full weeks separated its loss to Ohio State and its rout of South Carolina State. During the latter, Duke got hot quickly, pulling away in the first five minutes. The Blue Devils will have to start with that same energy and motivation against the Yellow Jackets. 

Second halves have been more to the Blue Devil’s liking. Against Virginia Tech, Duke needed just over five minutes to regain the lead, which it never again relinquished. In another five minutes they led by ten. The Blue Devils need to come out roaring and maintain that fire throughout the entirety of the game. 

The year of AJ Griffin

After starting the season with a knee injury, AJ Griffin has made a decisive comeback. In the past four games, the freshman played at least 19 minutes in each and put up three double-digit scoring performances. During that span he also had 15 rebounds, made all seven of his free throw attempts and shot 65.4% from the field. 

In this second ACC matchup, Griffin will have the opportunity to show just how much of an impact he can have off the bench. Duke hasn’t played in quite a while; a solid performance off the bench will give the team breathing room and a chance to ease back into conference play. The guard will have to step up, sink his shots and dominate on defense to give his team the best chance of victory. 

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