After every Duke men's basketball game, the Blue Zone brings one player, one word and one stat. With Duke's blowout of Pittsburgh in the rearview, here's our breakdown:
One player: Trevor Keels
Blue Devil fans beware: Keel Mode has returned. After a long stretch of games between his dominant performance against Kentucky and the road finale against Pittsburgh, Trevor Keels finally toppled the career-high of 25 points he set for himself back in November, putting up 27 in impressive fashion. In 34 minutes on the floor, the freshman shot 10-of-15 overall from the field, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range. After some early-season struggles from distance that saw Keels shooting below 30%, a nice run since returning from his brief injury has allowed him to shoot all the way back up to 34%. Coming into the season touted as one of the best shooters on the team, the first day of March was the perfect day to rediscover his form.
On the defensive side, Keels was just as impressive. Facing a small Pittsburgh team, Keels was able to come away with a steal and no fouls, both crucial to helping Duke keep the big lead. Along with help from other Blue Devils, Pittsburgh guards Femi Odukale and Ithiel Horton, who both average over 10 points per game, were held to five and seven points respectively, combining for 5-of-15 from the field. Trevor Keels and the rest of the Blue Devils are hitting their stride at just the right time to make a potential push into the later rounds of the tournament.
One word: Bench
The most surprising thing about this year’s team has been the depth on the roster. The productive minutes that rotation pieces like Joey Baker, Theo John and especially Jeremy Roach in his new role have given to the team have been incredible. On any given night, a different player will step up. Baker can hop on the court and get hot from three, John can slam down a few lobs and Roach can facilitate offense as well as anyone else on the team.
Tuesday, however, was a different story. Most of the minutes those three guys got were disappointing. Roach still dished out three assists and helped lock down the game on defense, but going 2-of-6 in 24 minutes slowed down the team. Baker hit a three in the game, but other than that, he turned the ball over once and committed two fouls, not adding much else to his box score. John was crucial in bringing down some rebounds, taking down three compared to Mark Williams’ two, doing so in half the minutes. However, his four fouls in his 13 minutes on the floor put the team in a tough spot.
While it didn’t prevent Duke from dominating Tuesday, the bench has to do more with their minutes. Players that can step in for your stars and make it seem as though the team does not miss a beat are a staple of any true contender. This game was tough for Duke’s reserves, but don’t get it twisted; any one of those players has the ability to take over for stretches, and they should never be counted out as important pieces on this team.
One stat: 50% from three
This is a stat that is very easy to get excited about. For the second straight game, Duke has hit over 10 threes, and for the third-straight game, they have shot at over 41% from beyond the arc. Duke currently sits ranked 25th out of 350 Division I men’s basketball teams in 3-point percentage at 37.7%. This team has got some serious shooters.
Tuesday put that shooting depth on display. Five different Blue Devils connected from distance, allowing the team to go 11-of-22. They did all of that with AJ Griffin, arguably the best shooter in the country, going just 1-of-3, and Jeremy Roach, a player who shoots 33% on the season, going 0-of-3. If either of them shoots their season average against Pittsburgh, the deficit could’ve been even worse for the Panthers. As the team starts gathering itself for tournament season, the flamethrowers being on is a terrifying sight for opponents. For the Duke faithful, this team is finding its identity at the perfect time.
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