Three points: Proctor's resurgence, battle on the boards key for No. 7 Duke men's basketball against Pittsburgh

Tyrese Proctor scored 17 points in Duke's win against Georgia Tech.
Tyrese Proctor scored 17 points in Duke's win against Georgia Tech.

No. 7 Duke men's basketball will look to keep its winning streak alive as it takes on Pittsburgh Saturday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Zone is here with three keys to a Blue Devil victory:

Limiting runs

Saturday will be fewer than two weeks since the Blue Devils' and Panthers' first meeting, so the teams will have their Jan. 9 matchup fresh on their minds going into the contest. In that game, after Duke took a 25-point lead into the half, Pittsburgh, led by head coach Jeff Capel, was never able to cut the margin any closer. In the Blue Devils’ most recent game against Georgia Tech, however, the Yellow Jackets went on multiple large runs and were even able to lead the game by as many as eight points before star sophomore Tyrese Proctor was able to lead a Duke surge into the game’s ending. 

Playing a large role in eliminating these runs will be keeping Pittsburgh from shooting the 3-pointer at a high rate. In the Blue Devils’ losses to Arizona and Arkansas this season, the opponents shot the deep ball at rates of 35.3% and 40.9%, respectively, and the Panthers can certainly perform similarly. Star guard Blake Hinson shoots 39.3% from beyond the arc while averaging 18.1 points per game, and letting him get hot could certainly allow for the Panthers to go on a run. Stopping Hinson and the rest of his team from getting open 3-pointers will be crucial for a Duke win Saturday. 

Tyrese Proctor rides high

After NBA prospect and team captain Tyrese Proctor went down with an injury to Georgia Tech in December, he struggled a bit in his first few games after returning. The Sydney native notched just three points total in the two games leading into last Saturday’s contest. Any fears of his woes continuing were shut down in an almost revenge game for Proctor against the Yellow Jackets, scoring 17 points, 11 of which came in the second half alone. 

The second half was not all blue skies for the Blue Devils, however, as senior captain Jeremy Roach went down with a knee injury midway through the second period. While Roach’s status is uncertain for the upcoming game, Scheyer will likely be looking for another force at guard to lead the team in order to offload some of the work which Roach has been carrying throughout the season. The times in which Duke’s offense has faltered most this season have been when it becomes too reliant upon star center Kyle Filipowski, so ensuring that strong guard play continues without their primary pick-and-roll operator will be very important come Saturday. 

Crash the boards and run

In the matchup between the two teams last week, Duke outrebounded Pittsburgh by a whopping 16, totaling 42 rebounds with 13 of them coming on the offensive end. Filipowski ended up with four offensive rebounds on his own, leading to big second chance points for the Blue Devils. The center from Westtown, N.Y., was also able to start transition opportunities on numerous occasions following strong rebounds on the defensive end, leading to lots of easy points for both himself and his teammates. Moving quickly after grabbing boards on defense led to multiple easy 3-pointers for the Blue Devils throughout the game, with Filipowski shooting 4-for-4 from behind the arc. More of the same fast-paced, transition offense as well as maximizing second chance points will go far towards a Blue Devil victory over the Panthers. 


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