Ahead of its tough conference contest against Clemson, the Blue Zone has three keys for Duke men's basketball to break its road slump:
On the road again
It has been a tale of two teams for Duke thus far: the tenacious, suffocating unit that has dominated in Cameron Indoor Stadium, and the middling-at-best squad that makes an appearance as soon as the Blue Devils leave Durham. An unblemished record in its nine home games would signify that Duke is ready to make a run at its sixth national title, but a .500 record in away and neutral-site games provides a more accurate perspective on where the Blue Devils stand right now; this is a team fighting to find its identity and strengths in the midst of conference play. After a gritty win against Pittsburgh in front of the Cameron Crazies Wednesday night, Saturday’s matchup in Clemson, S.C., offers an opportunity for Duke to show growth from last week’s trips to Raleigh and Chestnut Hill, Mass., where the Blue Devils were fortunate to escape with a road split. The Tigers are riding a six-game win streak, and it will take a sound performance away from home by Duke to snap it.
Despite displaying some impressive individual performances and coming away with the win, the young Blue Devils had to maneuver through some foul issues against the Panthers. Kyle Filipowski recorded an impressive 28-point, 15-rebound statline—both season-highs—but accrued his second foul before halftime. His fellow big man, Dereck Lively II, had a monumental impact on the game in the second half, but ultimately fouled out with a few minutes remaining. Freshmen Tyrese Proctor and Dariq Whitehead also both committed four fouls. While Wednesday’s comeback victory showed some flashes of excellence that head coach Jon Scheyer and his squad will look to build upon, the inexperience and youth was still apparent. A clean, disciplined performance is critical to win on the road in the ACC, and it will be particularly important for Duke against a Clemson squad that makes a conference-leading 78.7% of its attempts from the charity stripe.
The Blue Devils’ turnover woes have been no secret, but that is truly because of how much they have plagued this team. The first half struggles against Pittsburgh were largely caused by 12 Duke giveaways, and fixing this issue should remain the priority of Scheyer and the Blue Devils. Fortunately, Saturday’s contest provides a chance for Duke to right the ship; Clemson ranks in the bottom half of the conference in forced turnovers. The lack of veteran leadership in the backcourt with Jeremy Roach out due to a foot injury certainly doesn’t help, but it is not an excuse. The Blue Devils just have to be cleaner with the ball if they want to achieve the goals they set in October when the season began. Look for Saturday’s game to potentially be the beginning of a sharper Duke squad.
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