Duke men's basketball suffered a disappointing 82-67 loss against Virginia Tech in the ACC championship Saturday. Now, the Blue Zone breaks down the game with one player, one word and one stat:
One player: Paolo Banchero
Before the team turned its strategy to quick 3-point shots, Paolo Banchero was extremely efficient on the offensive end. Early in the game, Banchero was hitting turnaround jump shots with ease, making it seem as though he couldn’t miss. On defense, Banchero helped slow down the efficient play of Justyn Mutts, holding the forward that typically averages around 10 points a contest to just six. Beyond the negative takeaways from this loss, Banchero’s aggressive play stands out as a positive.
However, Banchero’s play does not come without criticism. Up until late in the second half, he did not bring down a single rebound, and Duke found itself outrebounded by 11 by the time the buzzer sounded. Despite his size and despite playing the five for large stretches of the game, Banchero struggled to block out and bring home the rebound, which gave Virginia Tech multiple chances to get shots up.
One word: Perimeter
The perimeter was a weak point for Duke throughout the ACC tournament final. It spelled their downfall on both ends of the court. Offensively, Hokie guard Hunter Cattoor could not be stopped. Going 7-for-9 from long range, hitting timely three after timely three to end any Duke runs, Cattoor played out of his mind. The rest of Virginia Tech’s roster struggled, however, going just 3-of-13 from beyond the arc. The Blue Devils’ perimeter defense was overall decent, but Duke just couldn’t shut down Cattoor like it needed to when he showed signs of getting hot.
As for the offensive end, Duke was ice cold from long range. While the box score doesn’t tell the exact story, it certainly comes close. Just four of 20 attempts fell for Duke, with most of them coming before Duke began to toss shots up to close the gap late. Shooting 20% from three was absolutely killer for the Blue Devils, especially when you take into account that one of the four was made by Michael Savarino with one second left. Duke will look to improve from distance as they hope to make a run in the Big Dance.
One stat: 13 offensive rebounds
Not enough can be said about how much the rebounding margin disadvantaged the Blue Devils, an issue that has plagued them all year. Poor rebounding contributed to many of their other losses, and while rebounding isn’t the only reason the ACC championship didn’t go as planned, it certainly didn’t help. By the time the buzzer sounded at the end of the first half, big men Banchero, Mark Williams and Theo John combined for zero rebounds. On the other hand, Virginia Tech grabbed 13 total offensive rebounds for 15 second-chance points, and the extra possessions ran a lot of time off the clock. In all facets of the game, Duke was hurt by their inability to bring down boards.
This last week has brought two disappointing losses for the Blue Devils, but there is still excitement in the season. The NCAA tournament starts soon, and Duke can still position itself for a run. While there have been recent struggles, like rebounding, there is no better time to work on those and have it all come together than late March.
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