Film room: Duke men's basketball must use height advantage and limit strong backcourt against Virginia

The frontcourt duo of Kyle Filipowski (30) and Dereck Lively II (1) during a win in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The frontcourt duo of Kyle Filipowski (30) and Dereck Lively II (1) during a win in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Hoping to rebound from a thumping at Miami, Duke next travels to Charlottesville, Va., to face top-10 Virginia. Before tipoff Saturday afternoon, the Blue Zone breaks down film on the Cavaliers:

Coming off a tough loss to Miami, the Blue Devils will hit the road Saturday for an equally formidable opponent in No. 8 Virginia. With only seven games left in the regular season, a road game against a talented ACC opponent provides Duke with the opportunity to prepare for the tough competition to come.

Before falling to Virginia Tech in an important rivalry matchup, the Cavaliers boasted an impressive seven-game winning streak in the month of January. Built off a strong backcourt combination of Reece Beekman and Kihei Clark, they managed consecutive, convincing victories against solid ACC rivals, a feat that Duke has not been able to replicate this season. 

Beekman’s stout defense and Clark’s aggressive drives to the basket are the backbone of this team, and the Blue Devils must manage their consistent production on both sides of the ball if they hope to squeeze out a victory. A main facilitator of the Cavaliers’ offense, Clark averages an extremely respectable 11.6 points and six assists per game this season. Even against a strong Hokies defense, Clark was able to put up an impressive stat line of 17 points and four assists. Watch as Clark takes MJ Collins of the Hokies one-on-one and effortlessly drives past him for an easy layup.

To deal with Clark’s success in the paint, the Blue Devils must turn to the formula that largely carried them to victory against North Carolina last Saturday. At 7-foot-1, Dereck Lively II stands five inches taller than any starter on the Virginia roster and a whopping 13 inches taller than Clark himself. His defense around the basket dominates opponents and should prove a useful feature of the Blue Devils’ game in the upcoming matchup. Averaging 2.4 blocks per game, his eight blocks Saturday night shut down Armando Bacot and propelled Duke to victory. Watch as Lively shuts down 6-foot-11 Pete Nance on a winding dunk attempt. 

Virginia Tech’s win against the Cavaliers exposed similar height deficiencies. Their shot-blocking ability and overall defensive success was overwhelmed by the height of the Hokies’ roster. Without a true center on the court, Virginia was left vulnerable in the paint. Seven-footer Kyle Filipowski knows better than anyone how to use his size and length to create opportunities around the rim, and the Blue Devils will look to capitalize on this mismatch to find success. Watch Filipowski absolutely dominate two defenders for the easy lay-in in the paint.

The Blue Devils are not without issues that they must clean up in order to have a chance to come away with the victory Saturday. An abundance of turnovers proved costly for Duke against Miami, and it must focus on moving the ball efficiently and successfully in order to revive its moribund offense. Here, a poor and misguided pass from freshman guard Tyrese Proctor allows a huge, momentum-building dunk for the Miami offense.

To return to the promise and potential displayed during Duke’s matchup against the Tar Heels, the Blue Devils must continue to rely on their big men. A combination of stout defense and aggressive play around the rim can allow Duke to take advantage of the game’s immense height mismatch. With only seven games left in the season, it is pivotal that the Blue Devils limit their mistakes and continue to find their identity behind Filipowski and Lively. 


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