Three points: Improved shooting, sustained defense crucial for Duke men's basketball against Boston College

Senior guard Jeremy Roach shoots a jumper against Notre Dame.
Senior guard Jeremy Roach shoots a jumper against Notre Dame.

The Blue Devils got back on track Wednesday, picking up a victory at home against Notre Dame. Duke will remain in Durham, this time for a bout with Boston College Saturday. The Blue Zone is here with three keys to a Blue Devil victory:

Second-half rallies

At its best, Duke has shown the ability to come out the gate powerfully with efficient early scoring. In four of their last five matchups, the Blue Devils established at least a 10-point lead at some point in the first half — the lone exception being the loss to the Tar Heels. Fast-paced plays and finding shots through traffic are markers of head coach Jon Scheyer’s first-half crew. 

Despite these strong starts, Duke has allowed its opponents to go on scoring runs and close the gap in the second half — as seen in its recent nail-biter against Clemson. Pushing through a few close matchups itself, Boston College is sure to apply pressure to the very end, and the Blue Devils must do the same. A key to this second-half tenacity is to keep the ball moving and space out the floor. Duke’s offense operates at its prime when the team is able to move the ball quickly inside and outside the paint, opening up scoring options on all fronts. 

Threes and frees

It goes without saying that the Blue Devils stand out when it comes to three-pointers. Boasting an impressive 37.5% rate from deep, their victories are driven by confident shooting beyond the arc. Therefore, the backcourt duo of senior Jeremy Roach and freshman Jared McCain will be crucial assets to establishing a lead against the Eagles.

However, despite securing a win in its most recent home-court matchup against Notre Dame, Duke suffered significant scoring droughts from the perimeter. These must be minimized to keep Boston College down. Moreover, while outside shooting consistently contributes to the Blue Devils’ offensive production, senior forward Quentin Post should be expected to show off his own 3-point prowess in response.

Just as successful shooting from the outside can propel Duke to another victory, missed free throws can drag the team down. Early in the season, getting fouled meant free-throw opportunities and easy points. Recently though, the Blue Devils have struggled to maintain their composure from the line. So, taking advantage of shots from the charity stripe will be an essential step in outscoring the incoming Eagles. 

Aggressive on defense

Wednesday’s victory against the Fighting Irish was primarily characterized by strong, dynamic efforts on defense. With the help of pressure from graduate center Ryan Young and aggression from freshman forward Sean Stewart, Notre Dame not only faced 12 consecutive misses, but also tallied up 15 turnovers for 10 Duke steals. Young and sophomore center Kyle Fillipowski are key players in recreating this bold defense. While the 7-foot powerhouse has often found himself in foul trouble over the past few games, the team can rely on his ability to force difficult shots. Of course, the Blue Devils also need to limit Boston College’s second chance scoring opportunities. Post’s team-leading 7.8 rebounds per game for the maroon and gold must be combated with defensive rebounds from Duke. If the Blue Devils can commit to another night of assertive defense in the paint and on the perimeter, it will prove to be a disappointing day for the Chestnut Hill, Mass., crew. 


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