While students are heading home for Thanksgiving, Duke men’s basketball is continuing to compete, facing La Salle in its second game of the Blue Devil Challenge. The Blue Zone is here with a key player on each side ahead of the contest:
Duke: Mark Mitchell
For Duke to remain undefeated and dominant in the Blue Devil Challenge, sophomore forward Mark Mitchell will need to continue having career-defining nights.
After the Kansas City, Kan. native missed the first game of the season against Dartmouth, speculation arose as to whether his reported ankle injury would substantially sideline him. Mitchell quickly silenced those rumors, returning as a starter in Duke’s home loss against then-No. 12 Arizona. Since then, Mitchell has steadily picked up momentum, scoring more points in each game until he put up a career-high 20 points in the Blue Devils' 30-point win over Bucknell. Mitchell is poised to keep this momentum rolling against La Salle.
In his freshman season at Duke, the 6-foot-9 forward was known more for his defensive dominance than his offensive production, establishing himself as a defensive star for the Blue Devils. His lights-out defense — he ranked in the 94th percentile in defensive metrics — was a key reason why last year’s squad held opponents to 63.6 points per game. With three games under his belt this season, Mitchell has quickly resumed his place as the center of Duke’s defensive scheme.
But, his showing against Bucknell proves that when given the chance, he can create offense as efficiently as he shuts it down. As Mitchell has demonstrated that he can be an offensive threat, opponents will have to pay him more attention as a scorer, potentially opening up his teammates.
As the Explorers march into Cameron Indoor Stadium, Mitchell’s expertise on both sides of the ball will undoubtedly be integral to head coach Jon Scheyer’s game plan.
La Salle: Jhamir Brickus
For La Salle to come into Cameron Indoor Stadium and pull off the upset, senior guard Jhamir Bricknis will need to take the reins to lead his team to victory. The Coatesville, Pa., native has seen a massive jump in offensive production from last year. In the 2022-23 season, he averaged 9.8 points per game, whereas he is averaging 14.3 points per game so far this season.
Brickus has consistently improved in his time with the Explorers, working hard to improve his shooting and earn a starting spot. Now, as a senior, he is second on the team with 57 points and has a .514 shooting percentage from the field. If Brickus has an off shooting night, the La Salle offense will flounder. Considering that this will be the Explorers’ first away game, the Cameron environment will certainly provide a tough challenge. Brickus’s veteran expertise will help his team stay calm under the road-game pressure, and his physicality and offensive ability will be essential factors for La Salle to keep the game close.
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