Three points: Guarding the three, spreading the wealth key for No. 10 Duke men's basketball at N.C. State

No. 10 Duke men's basketball enters the final week of the regular season with a road contest at N.C. State, and the Blue Zone is here with three keys to victory for the Blue Devils:

Perimeter defense

While N.C. State has lingered in the middle of the ACC table for the majority of the season, it is not a team to take lightly as Duke tries clinch a spot on top of the ACC before the upcoming ACC tournament. The Blue Devils must keep an eye on Wolfpack guard DJ Horne — the team’s leading scorer averaging 17.6 points a contest this year. The senior guard has been the team’s offensive spark plug relying on his hot hand to propel his squad to victories against teams such as Clemson and Miami. If Duke is able to limit his production early, expect N.C. State to struggle throughout the rest of the matchup. 

Horne has been especially effective from behind the arc — shooting a scorching 43.1% from beyond the 3-point line. Blue Devil guards Jeremy Roach, Jared McCain and Tyrese Proctor must prepare for a tough matchup and allow the Wolfpack to try to beat them via other options. Expect N.C. State to do its best to get its best scorer clean looks, but the Wolfpack will likely be unable to keep up with the offensive firepower of Duke. 

Offensive balance 

While shutting down Horne looks to be key on the defensive end, getting everyone involved early should be key to get out in front early in the contest. Duke enters the game with a plethora of offensive options and firepower, led by sophomore center Kyle Filipowski and freshman guard Jared McCain. The Blue Devils should look to move the ball around early and allow the hot hand to guide them for the majority of the night. While the Wolfpack has been an effective team scoring the ball, averaging 76 points per game, Duke has been relentless in scoring the basketball, averaging 80.3 points through the stretch of the season. 

The Durham squad has found different answers in every single game this season and should be ready to do the same Monday night. Roach, McCain and Proctor have collectively shared a majority of the offensive production in the backcourt, giving Filipowski plenty of space to work down low. Expect a strong offensive performance and Filipowski to take over down the stretch, especially with his matchup on the Wolfpack bigs. 

Ball security 

As has been the tale of the majority of the season for the Blue Devils, the turnover battle between Duke and N.C. State will be crucial Monday night. The Duke team has struggled in its losses with ball security and limiting the opposition's fast-break opportunities. Controlling the ball will allow the Blue Devils to impose their will on that end, allowing them to run their offense through Filipowski, supported by the guards’ playmaking abilities. 

The Durham favorites should have a straightforward task ahead of them as they are the more talented squad but cannot allow mistakes to derail their efforts, especially in a tough road environment. The Wolfpack will take full advantage of any openings Duke allows, and turnovers have been costly thus far into the season. N.C. State has averaged 7.6 steals per game and should look to jump into the passing lanes and run in transition to get the crowd going and upset the Blue Devils. 


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