Three points: Duke men's basketball must switch up starters, score early to beat Boston College

Ryan Young drained all of his shots from the field against N.C. State.
Ryan Young drained all of his shots from the field against N.C. State.

After an 84-60 loss to N.C. State Wednesday night, No. 16 Duke has a chance to improve its record with a rematch against Boston College. Before the 1 p.m. game Saturday in Chestnut Hill, Mass., the Blue Zone has three keys to a Blue Devil victory:

Switch up the starting five

It looks like Duke desperately needs variety in its starting lineup. The starters from the Blue Devils' last game—freshmen Dereck Lively II, Mark Mitchell and Kyle Filipowski, sophomore Jaylen Blakes and junior captain Jeremy Roach—struggled to get points on the board against N.C. State. In total, the starters scored 27 of Duke’s 60 points and had shooting percentages at or below 50%, including Roach and Lively missing all of their attempts from the field. 

In contrast, the bench accounted for the team's 33 other points. Two bench players, graduate center Ryan Young and freshman Dariq Whitehead, brought more positivity to the court; Young made all of his field goal attempts and Whitehead contributed four of the five Blue Devil triples. Together, the two added 23 points, just four points shy of what the starting five earned. If Duke is looking for scorers, then the players scoring more consistently should start the game. Switching the starting lineup to include players like Young and Whitehead would introduce more offensive intensity to the early game, potentially inspiring the rest of the young Duke team to follow suit. 

Consistent shooting

Sharpshooting is not exactly the Eagles' strong suit. Boston College shot just 16.7% from 3-point range and 63.2% on free throws Tuesday in its 70-63 win against Notre Dame. Wednesday night, Duke went 19-for-48 from the field and will need to shoot better to outscore Boston College. 

It took nearly eight minutes for the Blue Devils to secure their first few points against N.C. State and stop a 15-0 run with a dunk added by Mitchell. All previous attempts at layups, jumpers, treys and free throws were missed by the Blue Devils. Duke amassed just 22 points in the first half, going 7-for-24 from the field. Improvements to the team’s shooting ultimately arrived when substitutions allowed Whitehead and Young onto the court. The Blue Devils made 50% of their shots in the second half and began scoring more quickly than in the first, with Young a crucial part of the effort. Against Boston College, Duke should aim for more shooting consistency in the early stages of the game instead of relying on the second half to salvage a win. 

Greater defensive presence

N.C. State would not have been able to make such a decisive first-half run if the Blue Devils had played with more defensive fervor. Scheyer’s team looked sluggish, letting Wolfpack players Terquavion Smith and Jarkel Joiner possess the ball too frequently. Both guards were not incredibly efficient in their shooting attempts, only going 8-of-19 and 8-of-18 from the field, respectively. However, they combined to earn 45 of N.C. State’s 84 points. Joiner and Smith had chances to make so many attempts because of the lacking Blue Devil defense. By the end of the game, Duke had two blocks and five steals to N.C. State’s nine blocks and 10 steals. 

In a similar fashion, against Notre Dame, Boston College had just one steal and three blocks. The Blue Devils should capitalize on a weak Eagles' defense by creating a larger defensive presence. Otherwise, Boston College can go on a scoring run similar to the second-half 17-4 run against the Fighting Irish that led to its win.


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