Wednesday night the Miami Hurricanes simply outplayed the Duke Blue Devils. It seems as though Top-10 teams have been on upset alert every night of this young season.
Duke fans shouldn't worry too much about the loss, however. They can easily still gain full control of the ACC, and a win Saturday at home against the Maryland Terrapins will put them in the right direction.
The Blue Devils shot the ball horrifically against Miami, shooting a weary 29.7 percent from the floor. They will obviously need to improve their shooting to regain success. Seth Curry did not hit a single shot in the loss, missing all 10 of his attempts that night. Tyler Thornton also missed all of his field-goal attempts, and Quinn Cook made just 1-of-12.
It is obvious that Duke is struggling to fill the void that Ryan Kelly held as the team's sharp shooter. Kelly was shooting a team-high 52 percent from three-point land before he injured his right foot in a victory over Clemson earlier this month. He also was grabbing 5.4 rebounds per game for the Blue Devils, the second-most on the team.
Without Kelly, Duke has had a tough time winning ball games, as they are just 1-2 since his injury. They will need to find a way to get on without the senior starting tomorrow when Maryland comes to town. The Terrapins recently knocked off North Carolina State in a thrilling 51-50 victory earlier this month. N.C. State pulled off an upset of the Blue Devils on January 12th, the first of Duke's games without Kelly.
Duke will need somebody to step up in place of Kelly. Amile Jefferson must learn to stay out of foul trouble to help Duke's frontcourt. The freshman from Philadelphia has stepped up for the team, scoring in double digits in both losses, but is struggling to keep out of foul trouble. In the three games without Kelly, Jefferson has committed 12 personal fouls and notably fouled out of the NC State game.
Jefferson must step up, but he is not the only one who needs to rise to the occasion. Curry, Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon all must chip in with the outside shooting that Duke misses in Kelly's absence. Curry has been sharp this season, averaging 15.9 points per game, but it is crucial that he bounces back from the Miami game where he did not record a single point.
Mason Plumlee will need to lead this Duke squad through ACC play. Plumlee is one of the best big men in college basketball today, a true monster ripping down boards. Duke has to feed the big guy in order to get back on track. Not many teams have the inside presence to match Plumlee's 6'10" figure. The Blue Devils should take advantage of Plumlee's size.
Another thing that Duke needs to improve upon is their rebounding. Currently, they are No.112 in the nation in rebounding, gathering 36.6 boards a game. Plumlee is doing his part by pulling down 11.4 rebounds per game, but he can't grab every rebound for Duke. They need their other big men to step up and box out to grab some more rebounds.
Again, Jefferson will need to step up and start rebounding better for Duke. Jefferson and forward Josh Hairston must make the most of their minutes for the Blue Devils while filling in for Kelly. It is of utter importance that those two contribute to the team by adding tough play down low.
Maryland's top player is Alex Len, a 7'1" center from Ukraine. Plumlee will need to give his best in defending this big man. With his athleticism, Plumlee can tire out Len with his movement and explosive scoring ability on the offensive end. They must get a body on Len and make sure they hit the glass.
Without a doubt, Coach K and Duke need to improve their game despite being the nation's top-ranked team. A win on Saturday will help Duke's confidence level and give them some momentum running through the ACC.