For Duke men's basketball's 2022 finale, it welcomes Florida State to Cameron Indoor Stadium. Before the ACC matchup, the Blue Zone looks at what it will take for the Blue Devils to emerge victorious:
The stars are back
The Blue Devils are coming off a loss last week on the road in Winston-Salem. The 81-70 defeat snapped their then-NCAA-leading eight-game road win streak. While Duke will be returning home to Durham, the New Year’s Eve game date means many students won't be on campus. Nevertheless, the Blue Devils are favored to win and end their historic year on a high note. They will likely be aided by the return of star freshmen Dariq Whitehead and Dereck Lively II who both missed the loss to Wake Forest due to illness.
Duke clearly missed the presence of these stars against the Demon Deacons as they were outrebounded for only the third time this season. Still, the Blue Devils managed to outscore Wake Forest 36-34 in the paint, with many players able to get to the basket unguarded. In his return, Lively, at 7-foot-1, can have a major effect under the basket, deterring easy buckets at the rim. In his last available game against Maryland Eastern Shore, Whitehead scored a career-high 15 points. Duke will need him to continue his ascension in his first game back.
Guard the perimeter
While Duke’s size advantage has been crucial throughout this season, the backcourt will have more on its plate during this matchup. The Seminoles are shooting 34.5% from three this season, slightly better than Duke’s mark of 31.5%. Florida State guards Matthew Cleveland and Darin Green Jr. are both shooting over 40% from long range. In a recent game against St. John’s, Green made a career-high eight 3-pointers while the Seminole notched a season-high 11 shots from downtown.
Since Duke has not shown it can reliably outshoot its opponents outside the arc, it will have to rely on its defense to prevent Florida State from going on big runs. The Blue Devils have many different options in their backcourt like junior captain Jeremy Roach and freshman Tyrese Proctor, with Whitehead adding another agile force for the opposing offense to reckon with. If Duke can guard the perimeter well, it will have a good chance of maintaining the upper hand against the Seminoles.
Trust in Jaylen Blakes
Despite last week’s short-handed loss against Wake Forest, there was a bright spot in the performance: Jaylen Blakes. He played 25 minutes off the bench and recorded multiple career-highs with 17 points and three steals. For the first time in his Duke career, the sophomore led the team in scoring. Even after the Demon Deacons took an early lead, Blakes kept the Blue Devils in the game, scoring 10 straight points for Duke in the second half to cut the deficit. The Blue Devils' biggest takeaway from the loss is the Somerset, N.J., native's consistent improvement. Duke should continue to rely on him for extra offense.
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