Three points: Duke men's basketball can use increased physicality to start ACC play with win against Boston College

Guard Jeremy Roach lets one fly against Ohio State.
Guard Jeremy Roach lets one fly against Ohio State.

As Duke stares down its ACC gauntlet beginning with a Saturday afternoon clash with Boston College, the Blue Zone is here with three keys to a Blue Devil win:

Force Bad Shots

Boston College runs its offense through its guards, and has struggled to score due to injuries at the position. Four-star guard Donald Hand Jr. played two games before a torn ACL ended his season. Junior DeMarr Langford, the bonafide star of the team last year, has dealt with a lingering ankle injury and a bout with the flu, causing him to miss significant time. Thus, at the helm sit guards Makai Ashton-Langford and Jaeden Zackery. Ashton-Langford, a 6-foot-3 graduate student, is currently averaging 12.1 points per game on 38.3% shooting from the field. He has found less success from beyond the arc, averaging a measly 16.7% from 3-point territory. Zackery, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, has scored 10.6 points per game, but on 37.3% shooting—a significant regression from his efficient 46.3% shooting in his freshman year. 

Boston College’s guards have the ability to create off the dribble and make open shots. However, when guarded closely and forced into tough looks, they become streakily cold. Wednesday evening against Nebraska, Ashton-Langford missed a lot of contested looks, going 2-for-11 on the night. Zackery didn’t fare much better, finishing 2-of-8 from the field. Their inability to score allowed the Cornhuskers to run rampant in the second half, going on a 33-6 run and winning comfortably. Expect to see Jeremy Roach and Jaylen Blakes, when he comes off the bench, challenge Ashton-Langford’s and Zackery’s creativity. If the Blue Devils can get the best of the Eagles in this matchup, Boston College will not be able to score efficiently on offense.

Points in the Paint

Duke’s offense is at its best when the Blue Devils are working towards creating higher percentage looks in the paint. This strategy paid dividends against Ohio State, as the Duke forwards had one of their best nights of the season. Kyle Flipowski had another efficacious offensive performance down low, scoring 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting while grabbing three offensive rebounds. Ryan Young also finished the night with 10 points on 3-of-4 from the field with three offensive rebounds. In addition, Dereck Lively II had what could be considered his breakout game for the Blue Devils. After starting the season with limited minutes due to a calf injury, Lively scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting, including an emphatic and-one to give Duke a needed momentum boost in the second half.     

“Really proud of his effort,” head coach Jon Scheyer said of Lively’s performance after the Ohio State game. “I thought it was a huge jump.”

The injury bug has also bit the Boston College forwards, as starting center Quinten Post has missed the entire season with a day-to-day foot injury. In his absence, 6-foot-9 senior T.J. Bickerstaff has tried to fill the void, averaging one block per game. Although Post could make his season debut Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium, it is imperative that Duke sticks to its advantage and exploits the Boston College weakness down low.


After being bullied around the basket by Zach Edey and Purdue, Duke responded well against a similarly physical Ohio State team. The Blue Devils outrebounded the Buckeyes 34-31, grabbing 13 offensive boards. Their physical toughness and fortitude to box out paid dividends down the stretch, where they were able to burn over a minute off the clock thanks to three straight offensive rebounds.

“I just think of all of them, their mindset of, when you get knocked down, you get right back up,” Scheyer said of his team battling Ohio State. “I’m just proud of them for doing that.”

For all its injury woes, Boston College remains a tough team on the glass. Bickerstaff is currently 11th in the ACC in rebounding, averaging 6.9 boards per game. For Duke to ensure a victory, it must bring that competitive fire it had against Ohio State to battle and box out properly.


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