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Three points: Duke men's basketball needs help from bench, reliable bigs to defeat Delaware

Freshman Dereck Lively logged four points against Kansas.
Freshman Dereck Lively logged four points against Kansas.

Duke hopes to rebound from its last-minute loss against Kansas in Indianapolis against Delaware at Cameron Indoor Stadium Friday evening. The Blue Zone is here with three key points for the Blue Devils to get back to winning ways:

A quicker start

The Blue Devils began the first half of their game against USC Upstate, as well as their most recent against Kansas, slowly. Duke did not see its first points on the board against the Spartans until the 16:22 mark in the first half. Shooting struggles were apparent once again Tuesday during the Blue Devils’ test against the sixth-ranked Jayhawks. The first half of the Champions Classic was not a showcase of either team’s 3-point shooting abilities; Kansas out-performed head coach Jon Scheyer’s squad by shooting a meager 15.38% from beyond the arc, with Duke only 1-for-11 from deep. The Blue Devils were cold all around in the first 20 minutes of play, only making 10 of the 32 shots they attempted. This allowed the Jayhawks to create an 11-point deficit that Duke eventually closed to four by the end of the first half. The Blue Devils will have to bank their shots—and make them early—in order to prevent Delaware from going on a devastating early first-half run and creating another deficit they cannot overcome.

Look to the bench 

Tuesday’s game was an underwhelming showing of the skill and depth that the Blue Devils possess. Dereck Lively II, Jacob Grandison and Jaylen Blakes were the three players chosen to bolster the offense and hopefully bridge the early gap the Jayhawks created. However, Duke’s bench points in Indianapolis amounted to just nine, compared to the 32 points it made off the bench during last week’s matchup with USC Upstate. Lively contributed four points with his return to play and Blakes scored the remaining five against Kansas. Delaware’s two games against Air Force and UNCW should emphasize the importance of bench points for Duke; the Blue Hens only made 14 bench points versus Air Force and 15 against UNCW. The Blue Devils have the precedence, potential and the players to out-score Delaware off the bench: the question is whether Duke’s bench lives up to the expectations.  

Points in the paint 

One thing that Duke does incredibly well is driving the ball. Although the Blue Devils were outshined by Kansas’ offense, which scored 48 of its points in the paint, Duke nevertheless scored 42 of its 65 points in the paint as well. Against USC Upstate, the Blue Devils scored 46 points from inside. Duke’s size is the key to its repeated success near the basket, with players like Lively, Christian Reeves and Kyle Filipowski—the team’s leading scorer—all measuring in at least 7-foot tall. Filipowski’s size will be crucial in securing rebounds, a fourth consecutive double-double and defensive blocks against the Blue Hens, whose star scorers are all under 6-foot-7. With Delaware only scoring 22 points in the paint during its duel with Air Force, Duke’s height and pattern of excellence around the basket should lead to a dominant Blue Devil win. 


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