Three points: Early success, limiting Blake Hinson key for No. 14 Duke men's basketball on the road at Pittsburgh

Sophomore center Kyle Filipowski defends a layup attempt against Syracuse.
Sophomore center Kyle Filipowski defends a layup attempt against Syracuse.

No. 14 Duke men's basketball continues its road trip as it takes on Pittsburgh Tuesday evening. The Blue Zone is here with three keys to keep the Blue Devil winning streak alive:

Starting strong

Duke finds itself most at trouble when it can’t find solid footing and allows its opponents to make a strong scoring run early on. In many matchups this season, the Blue Devils have struggled offensively in the first few minutes. Pittsburgh, in its first conference win against Louisville, showed defensive weaknesses but offensively took a strong lead early in the game. The Panthers relied on senior forward Zack Austin for explosive offensive production, as he contributed 10 points within just the first seven minutes of play. Head coach Jeff Capel will look to maintain such offensive production early on, forcing Duke to assert defensive dominance both in the paint and on the perimeter. 

The Blue Devils’ defense is not their only asset in hitting the ground running against the Panthers in their conference matchup. Second-chance scoring will be crucial to establishing a quick lead. As Pittsburgh ranks second in the ACC in offensive rebounds and Duke sitting at twelfth, not hesitating to take advantage of second-chance scoring will be crucial in establishing an early lead within the first half. Sophomore center Kyle Filipowski, the team leader in rebounds, will be expected to crash the boards to assist the Blue Devils in an aggressive start against the Panthers.   

Containing Blake Hinson

Although Capel’s crew is full of new faces this season, senior forward Blake Hinson has utilized his experience and proved to be a scoring powerhouse for the Panthers. The Deltona, Fla., native was in a shooting lull in Pittsburgh’s past couple matchups, but quickly fell back into rhythm after putting up a team-leading 21 points against the Cardinals Saturday afternoon. He tallies a team-high with an average of 19.1 points per game and ranks first in 3-point field goals per game among the ACC. If Duke can manage to add pressure to the 6-foot-8 veteran, the Panthers' scoring ceiling will surely be limited Tuesday night. Hinson consistently looks to dominate behind the arc, but Duke’s ability to contain the offensive star’s shooting is key to an efficient Blue Devil victory. 

Maintaining momentum 

Coming off its first road victory in South Bend, Ind., and sixth consecutive victory, momentum might just be the name of Tuesday night’s game in Pittsburgh. Recent Blue Devil victories have been marked by reliance on an electric backcourt including freshman shooting guard Jared McCain. The Sacramento native has shown undeniable offensive prowess, shooting at an impressive 43.8% from three. McCain also boasts an average of four rebounds per game, proving his defensive growth. If the rookie can continue to fire on all cylinders, he is sure to aid the Blue Devils in another win away from home. 

During the winning streak, the young Blue Devil crew seems to have found a consistent offensive plan of attack. While McCain is often a key contributor to this pattern, senior guard Jeremy Roach will be a versatile asset for head coach Jon Scheyer and his team. The captain has demonstrated a level of confidence both in his off-ball movement and shooting, providing a challenge for the inconsistent Pittsburgh. Although the Panthers are coming off of a victory against 5-9 Louisville, they might fall short in game five of conference play when pitted against the Blue Devils’ forceful momentum.  


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