Coming off an energy-boosting win against Notre Dame at home Tuesday, the Blue Devils head to the road for a game against Syracuse. Before Duke heads to play in the JMA Carrier Dome Saturday, the Blue Zone looks at a player from both sidelines capable of leading their team to a victory:
Duke: Dereck Lively II
In Saturday’s matchup against the Orange, Duke will face a style of defense that it has largely not encountered this season. The 2-3 zone defense that Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim employs can dismantle a young team if it enters the game unfocused. The Orange plan to dare the Blue Devils to shoot threes, something Duke has not necessarily excelled at this season, with a 32.4% mark from above the arc. Through the zone, Syracuse most recently limited N.C. State to just 9-of-34 shooting from downtown, which ultimately let it defeat the Wolfpack 75-72.
One way to approach the Orange's defense is by attacking the middle of the floor and throwing lobs to the baseline, something that freshman center Dereck Lively II has shown he is capable of. If Duke can avoid getting enticed into jacking up the 3-ball instead of placing its shot, Lively could have a big day, as he is proficient in finishing alley-oops. The zone also gives the opposing team ample opportunities to grab offensive rebounds, which is another way the 7-foot-1 Lively, who averages 2.1 offensive rebounds a contest, can impact the game tremendously. In the most recent matchup between these two teams last year, the Blue Devils had another threat that aided them in getting around the zone—center Mark Williams. The former Duke star was a significant reason why the Blue Devils got past the Orange in the ACC tournament. Williams put up 15 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, with seven of the latter from the offensive glass. If Lively can have a similar impact to the Hornets player Saturday, Duke may leave its trip to New York with a win.
Syracuse: Joseph Girard III
Duke will have to deal with a familiar foe in the backcourt Saturday: Joseph Girard III. The senior guard has played impressively against Duke in the past, including a 23-point performance in last year’s ACC tournament quarterfinal. Now, Girard poses an even greater threat to the Blue Devils as a leader for the Orange, and one who can heat up at any moment. The Glens Falls, N.Y., product averages 16.9 points per game this season, while shooting 38.1% from three. In Syracuse's last contest, Girard put up 14 points, which helped to knock down No. 23 N.C. State—the team's first ranked win of the season. Freshman guard Tyrese Proctor and junior captain Jeremy Roach will have to key in defensively, as Girard will keep putting up shots if he sees his early attempts drop. If Duke can limit Girard on the defensive end, it has a chance to pick up an important road win before the conference season ends.
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