Before returning to Durham for its final three-game home stand, Duke men's basketball has another away contest as it heads north to take on Syracuse. The Blue Zone has three keys for the Blue Devils to right the road-game ship:
Return of the man
After months of carrying the Blue Devils on his back, freshman center Kyle Filipowski had a blip. At Miami, he scored just nine points; five days later, in Virginia, he went scoreless while also sacrificing five turnovers. Then things took a turn for the worse: He sprained his ankle, a misfortune that rubbed salt in the wound left by the mistaken call from ACC officials that lost the Westtown, N.Y., native his chance to take down then-No. 8 Virginia on its home court. It was not Filipowski’s week.
Valentine’s Day changed that, though. The seven-time ACC Rookie of the Week was back in action with 22 points banked against the Fighting Irish, who paid a visit to Cameron Indoor Stadium Tuesday night. It was an all-around effort for Duke, showcasing the depth of the team—something that had already become more important during Filipowski’s less-than-stellar stretch. With their point man back and the comforting screams of the Cameron Crazies blasting at full volume, the Blue Devils were able to take a slim lead over Notre Dame and earn themselves their first win since sending North Carolina packing Feb. 4. For Filipowski to be back at full capacity adds a dash of optimism to Duke’s oncoming matchup against Syracuse on Saturday night.
Tire them out
When the Orange took on the N.C. State Wolfpack earlier this week, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim gave the vast majority of court time to a core starting five. Three bench players saw a combined 13 minutes on the hardwood in the JMA Wireless Dome; the rest of the game was left to the original lineup. Duke head coach Jon Scheyer, on the contrary, takes full advantage of his deep roster and rotates players in and out of action on the regular. When the Fighting Irish came to Durham, nine Blue Devils saw the court, a strategy that helped maintain fierce energy for the home team and arguably pushed it to that four-point lead at the end of the game.
A variable rotation means more room to rest, certainly, but it is also simply necessary to fit all of Duke's talent in the game. Though he only played nine minutes against Notre Dame, graduate center Ryan Young collected six points and eight boards, and while freshman forward Mark Mitchell earned just 15 minutes of playing time, it was his corner three that sealed the win for the Blue Devils.
Recently, Scheyer has opened his rotation even more as he starts to include freshman guard Jaden Schutt, who last saw play at the Watsco Center in Miami. Schutt’s addition to the Duke team could be momentous, particularly in his capacity as a three-point shooter, and if Scheyer utilizes him Saturday, he might make another appearance on the stat sheet.
Break the zone
The Orange are known around the ACC, and the country, for playing a dangerous 2-3 zone defense—a severe threat for Duke. The Blue Devils rely heavily on getting the ball in from right below the rim; layups factor heavily into their points per game average. To get around the effective zone defense that the Orange will be pulling out on their home court, the Blue Devils essentially have two options: set picks or shoot from downtown. The 3-pointers that Duke will need to put up on Saturday will likely come from a combination of graduate transfer Jacob Grandison, freshman Dariq Whitehead and, if given the opportunity, Schutt. Landing enough threes to beat this ACC rival on the road will be a bit of a tall task for the Blue Devils, who currently shoot 32.3% from the arc and have not, as of late, taken advantage of every opportunity from deep. Still, enough of the roster has a clean jump shot; while Syracuse’s zone will certainly be a hill to climb, it is not an unreasonably steep one.
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Sophie Levenson is a Trinity first-year and sports features editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.