After two tough road losses, the Blue Devils will look to get back on track at home against Charlotte. Before the game tips off Saturday, the Blue Zone brings you a key player from each squad:
Duke: TJ Power
In the wake of back-to-back upset losses, the No. 22 Duke men’s basketball is desperate for a convincing victory to get its season back on the rails. Countless problems have become apparent through the past two games, the most glaring of which is the team’s lackluster performance from beyond the arc. The Blue Devils shot below 30% from three in both losses, and looked lost from deep. The team is hurting for a knockdown shooter, someone who they can trust to drain a three when it matters.
As such, fans should expect to see freshman forward TJ Power play a large role in Saturday’s contest against Charlotte. Power’s numbers certainly don’t jump off the page at this point in the season, but that is more of a testament to his lack of playing time as opposed to his ability. There have been glimpses of his offensive prowess, the most apparent of which came against La Salle when he scored nine points in only six minutes of play. He has looked assured and calm despite his limited opportunities, and has knocked down several momentum-shifting three balls in Duke’s last three games.
As opposed to some of his freshman counterparts, Power saw scant minutes in the Blue Devils’ opening homestand — instead thrown into the deep end away from Cameron Indoor. Now back at home, fans should expect to see the young big man strive to fill a pure shooter role for Duke. If head coach Jon Scheyer lets Power run free Saturday, the Blue Devils should prove to be too much for the 49ers and the team may yet find its knockdown shooter.
Charlotte: Igor Milicic Jr.
In its biggest test thus far, Charlotte will be relying on a strong performance from forward Igor Milicic Jr. The 6-foot-10 junior has been a consistent source of production for the 49ers, both on the boards and in the scoresheet. Averaging nearly a double-double per game on remarkably efficient shooting splits, Milicic could indeed prove troublesome for Duke. Last week against Davidson, he put up 19 points and hit 5-of-6 threes — as well as adding eight boards. He has proven himself to be a threat from the perimeter, allowing Charlotte to spread the floor with a higher degree of efficacy.
It’s clear that Milicic is one of the primary axes of the 49ers offense, but his impact on the defensive end cannot be understated. As previously mentioned, the big man brings down 9.4 boards per game — largely on the defensive glass. He also averages nearly a block and a steal per game, and his imposing frame helps to dissuade would-be slashers. Taken together, Milicic is a complete player with the potential to change the game on both ends of the floor. The Blue Devils will need to both lock him down on the perimeter and limit his defensive impact if they want to pull away, as he is undoubtedly the man to watch for Charlotte.
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