Before Duke takes on Virginia Tech at home Saturday night, the Blue Zone takes a look at the previous match between the two teams and previews the upcoming rematch:
Filipowski’s fantastic day
While Duke dropped a close game that came down to the wire, one force kept it within reach for the entire contest — center Kyle Filipowski. The freshman scored a career-high 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to earn his 10th double-double this season. Filipowski shot 9-of-17 from the floor while knocking down four threes. In the first six minutes of the second half alone, Filipowski shot 3-of-3 from outside the arc, proving himself as a strong scorer from outside in addition to near the rim.
Injuries to key players
Duke’s 2022-23 season has been marked by injuries to several players on the roster, and this fact was all too apparent for the Blue Devils against the Hokies Jan. 23. Having broken his nose just five days earlier, sophomore guard Jaylen Blakes played just five minutes. During the game, quickly improving freshman forward Dariq Whitehead suffered a leg injury early in the second half, which pulled him out of the game. Lastly, Filipowski was hit in the throat by an accidental punch from Virginia Tech’s MJ Collins at the end of the game, causing a brief injury scare. Put together, these injuries could have been the difference in a game the Blue Devils only lost by three points.
Hot shooting for the Hokies
Aside from free throws, on which the Hokies went a subpar 12-of-19, Virginia Tech lit up the Blue Devils in all areas of scoring. The Hokies shot a great 28-of-49 from the floor, making 60% of their two-point attempts and an impressive 52.6% of their 3-point attempts. Virginia Tech’s backcourt duo of Hunter Cattoor and Sean Pedulla torched Duke from deep, accounting for eight of the Hokies’ 10 threes while scoring 31 combined points on just 18 shot attempts. Lastly, guard Michael Collins Jr. made a tough midrange jumper with 14 seconds left to give Virginia Tech the lead for good. All in all, despite a nice shooting day on their end, the Blue Devils had no answer for the Hokies’ high-efficiency day.
Emergence of Lively
Since losing to Virginia Tech, Duke has been on somewhat of a resurgence, winning six of its last eight games. A large part of this success has come from the efforts of rapidly improving center Dereck Lively II, who has averaged 6.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and three blocks since the Blue Devils’ last meeting with the Hokies in January. Lively’s 7-foot-1 stature makes him a prime lob threat on offense, leading to him making an impressive 82.1% of his two-point attempts over his last nine games. On defense, Lively has played up to his pedigree; the freshman is second in the ACC in blocks and has led to Duke ranking No. 3 in the ACC in that category. After coming off the bench for five games in the middle of the season, Lively has started every game post-Virginia Tech and is a key asset to a Blue Devil team appearing to find its footing heading into the postseason.
A changing of the guards
Many Blue Devil fans will take notice that the team’s backcourt roles have been flexible all season. Indeed, freshman Tyrese Proctor has increasingly acted as the Blue Devils’ point guard as of late, directing plays and bringing the ball up to the frontcourt. Meanwhile, junior and team captain Jeremy Roach has played more minutes at the shooting guard position, although he hasn’t lost his strong passing ability. This change has been reflected in the stat sheet; since the Virginia Tech loss, Proctor has averaged 9.8 points and 4.4 assists per contest in nine games, while Roach has ramped up his scoring volume, averaging 13.9 points. Against Syracuse last Saturday, Roach scored 17 points, while Proctor dished out six assists and only attempted five shots. Given Duke’s three-game win streak, head coach Jon Scheyer may choose to play Proctor as the long-term point guard while the Blue Devils look to finish out February strong.
Whitehead amps up his shooting
Prior to his aforementioned leg injury, Whitehead had been a fine shooter from outside the arc, making 37.3% of his 3-point attempts. However, since returning from a four-game absence, the highly coveted freshman has shot lights-out from deep, making 52.6% of his treys since his return during Duke’s loss to Virginia Feb. 11. With Whitehead quickly emerging as the team’s best volume 3-point shooter, he may see increased time and a return to the starting lineup down the stretch as Duke heads into the ACC tournament and beyond.
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