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three points: finding identity, crashing the boards key for no. 9 duke men's basketball against southern indiana

no. 9 duke men's basketball will look to finish the blue devil challenge undefeated against southern indiana.
no. 9 duke men's basketball will look to finish the blue devil challenge undefeated against southern indiana.

after two dominating wins, no. 9 duke men’s basketball will conclude the blue devil challenge with a matchup against southern indiana friday. the blue zone brings three keys to watch for in the contest:

establish identity

duke’s final bout in the blue devil challenge against southern indiana once again provides an opportunity for second-year head coach jon scheyer’s squad to grow before acc play in december. as the blue devils move deeper into their non-conference schedule friday, a critical point of development will be finding improved comfort, fluidity and identity on the offensive end. 

the first halves played against then-no.12 arizona and then-no. 18 michigan state highlighted the extent of this problem. the respective 33 and 31-point periods featured lackluster half-court offense, weak three-point shooting and low energy that translated into disappointing numbers on the glass. there remains little doubt in the on-paper scoring ability of duke’s roster. however, the blue devils need to firmly establish an identity that will fuel their comfort and confidence with the ball. with their backcourt depth, this identity could take the form of fast-paced guard play that excels in transition and lights-out shooting out from behind the arc. taking on southern indiana friday, scheyer has the perfect opportunity to push duke’s offense to the next level and make a jump that will pay dividends all the way through march. doing so would power the blue devils into an early lead against the screaming eagles and help them enter the second half with more comfort than they have through the first four contests.

limit turnovers

a key point of weakness for duke thus far has come in ball security — it currently averages 9.6 turnovers per game. against its two ranked opponents, this figure inflates to 13.5. turning to the other side, southern indiana has managed its way to a respectable 5.8 steals per game. sophomore a.j. smith leads this effort with nine takeaways on the season. 

improving ball security will be a critical part of the aforementioned need for the blue devils to build offensive fluidity. pushing the pace creates vulnerabilities in rapidly changing passing lanes and opens up opportunities for mishandles. turnovers in these situations kill momentum and wear down the players on the floor as they defend the fast break. duke will do well to keep this issue in mind come friday’s contest and begin addressing the weakness before conference play.

second chances

perhaps the biggest dropoff for this season’s blue devils has come on the offensive glass. last year’s roster averaged 14.6 offensive rebounds through the first four games of the season. this year, the team is averaging only 8.8. in the absence of these second chances, duke has seen fewer overall field goal attempts and left offensive production on the table. the drop is largely attributed to smaller lineups featuring three undersized guards competing on the glass. 

the blue devils’ big men sophomore kyle filipowski and graduate student ryan young will need to step up and earn some second chances. the centers led last year’s team in offensive rebounding totals with 90 and 83, respectively. if the duo can show more fight on the offensive glass against the screaming eagles and find kicks out to the perimeter for the wealth of guard talent, they will duke pull away with a win — and some development — friday.

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