Before Duke hits the road for Charlottesville, Va., the Blue Zone rewinds the clock to the teams' first meeting, when Virginia took home the victory, and previews what could be different about this one:
The Cavaliers waltzed into Cameron Indoor Stadium and did what every opponent dreams of doing: they beat Duke on their home court. In style, too. Reece Beekman’s game-winning shot absolutely deflated the crowd. Not much can silence the Crazies, but that clutch performance accomplished the feat with ease. They returned to Charlottesville, Va., with the win and the momentum that went along with it.
Turnovers yet again plagued the Blue Devils in their first Virginia matchup. Duke lost the ball 15 times. Even though the Cavaliers weren’t having a spectacular shooting day themselves, those extra possessions allowed them to simply take more shots–65 from the field, as opposed to the Blue Devils’ 52. Though Duke shot better from beyond the arc and made more than three times the free throws, those extra chances were too much to overcome.
In a lone bright spot for the Blue Devils, the team came up with multiple clutch blocks in big moments. Theo John, Paolo Banchero and Mark Williams all had three each. Two of John’s came in the last three and a half minutes. While blocks alone can’t win games, that stat demonstrates the will of the three big men and what they are capable of when performing to the best of their abilities.
Watch out for Keels
Trevor Keels returned to the starting lineup for Duke against Florida State, replacing Jeremy Roach. In Duke and Virginias' first matchup of the season, Keels tallied 12 points, the second most on the team, along with four rebounds and two assists off the bench. Five of his 12 points came from free throws, of which he made 83.3%. Now potentially back in the starting five, and coming off of an eight-assist game against the Seminoles, Keels looks to build on the last outing's performance.
The fatal flaw of the Blue Devils has been their inability to execute for an entire 40-minute game. Their production seems to come in waves, as it did in the first Virginia game. The Cavaliers are guaranteed to come out firing, determined to sweep college basketball’s villains. Duke must echo that energy and intensity from the get-go and not let up. 40 minutes of Duke's basketball, meaning 40 minutes of efficient offensive possessions and dominant defense, are virtually unbeatable.
The big three
The 3-point shot does not define or dominate Duke’s offense. However, it is stronger and more effective when those shots are falling, and that all comes down to the guards. A.J. Griffin has been the resident sharpshooter in Durham this season, but had a slow day with only two trey attempts, both missed, the first time these teams met. Wendell Moore Jr. was one-for-five from beyond the arc for one of his worst 3-point performances on the season. While the Blue Devil offense by no means needs a 3-point clinic to down the Cavaliers, a handful of open looks and made shots would help to ease the defensive workload and increase offensive efficiency.
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