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Three points: Duke men's basketball needs to avoid 3-point woes to beat Ohio State

Kyle Filipowski releases a 3-point shot against Kansas.
Kyle Filipowski releases a 3-point shot against Kansas.

No. 17 Duke faces another stern challenge against No. 25 Ohio State Wednesday evening at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Hoping to rebound from a double-digit defeat to Purdue, the Blue Zone is here with three keys to a Blue Devil win:

Keep an eye out on defense

A disappointing finish at the Phil Knight Legacy tournament Sunday against Purdue capped off a subpar showing from the Blue Devils all weekend. Duke will be looking to get back on track during the ACC/Big Ten Challenge this week. A loss to Ohio State almost exactly one year ago makes Wednesday’s game all the more important for the Blue Devils to avenge. Duke is slipping in the rankings and has a chance to remind critics, opponents and itself of what they are capable of achieving this season against the Buckeyes.

However, it will take a tremendous defense to contain Ohio State. The Buckeyes have a slate of new players much like Duke, with youth and potential across the roster. They have strong depth, meaning everyone has the potential to flip a switch and be the team’s leading scorer for the night. Against Cincinnati last week, four different Ohio State players scored in double figures. The plethora of options the Buckeyes have should not overwhelm a strong Blue Devil defense, but Duke will need to stay vigilant.

Play big

That being said, Justice Sueing and Zed Key are both averaging double figures with most of their shots coming from inside the perimeter. Duke should use its physicality and height advantage to contest easy shots at the rim. Dereck Lively II and Kyle Filipowski can start the game off strong by making their presence known in the paint. A strong defense can allow Duke to jumpstart its offense in transition, positioning itself for faster play that benefits the team. The Blue Devils led in fast break points against Purdue, while Ohio State is notorious for not being able to slow down its opponents during head coach Chris Holtmann’s tenure.

Duke should go into Wednesday’s game with the goal of out-rebounding Ohio State. The Blue Devils have multiple 7-footers with strong athleticism in their starting lineup, while the Buckeyes do not. If Duke can focus on the boards, then it can push the pace in transition and prevent second-chance opportunities. In fact, the Blue Devils’ rebounding disadvantage against Purdue contributed to disadvantages in second-chance points and points in the paint as well. High-percentage shots near the basket are vital to winning basketball games, and rebounding can get Duke closer to that goal.

Limit 3-pointers

Duke is not shooting the ball well. This may be attributed to players getting their footing and returning from injury. However, the Blue Devils will continue to face tough competition and cannot risk any losses while they experiment this season. Attempting 19 treys and only making two in a double-digit loss against Purdue should be a sign to look elsewhere for a winning strategy. On the season, Duke is shooting just 29.1% from behind the 3-point line. Although Ohio State is not shooting much better at only 34.1%, the Blue Devils should caution against beating their opponents this way. This is their lowest 3-point shooting percentage since 1985, and Duke has shot the ball 5-of-40 combined in both of its losses this season. To beat the Buckeyes, the Blue Devils should refrain from shooting too many 3-pointers.

This doesn’t necessarily mean to stray away from the 3 as a tool for winning, but the Blue Devils should focus on making as many high-quality shots as possible instead of forcing them. Duke should not risk putting up subpar shots that limit its offense and relieve the opposing team. In the second half against the Boilermakers, the Blue Devils were 0-for-11 from behind the arc. They instead can work inside out, focusing on getting the ball into the big men. If a double team is sent, they can kick it out to an open man in the wing or corner as well.


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