Duke basketball traveled to South Beach in an attempt to get its third straight ACC win, and the Blue Devils did just that.
The Blue Devils, now 4-2 in the ACC, beat the Miami Hurricanes 67-46 on Wednesday night in front of a few big names—Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were among other stars attending the college contest.
The last time these two teams played, it was No. 3 Duke vs. No. 5 Miami, a legendary game held at Cameron Indoor Arena where Ryan Kelly returned from his injury for the game of his life.
After their last matchup, the Hurricanes have really fallen off, but that’s to be expected. The ‘Canes lost their top six scorers from last season. Although they aren’t the same, Jim Larranaga’s team has still proven to be tough with a near-win at Syracuse and a good win at North Carolina.
It was important for Duke to come in and keep its mini streak going. After dropping two of their first three games in the conference, the Blue Devils needed this win to stay afloat.
Rebounding is Key
Duke is not a good rebounding team. It has continuously been a problem for the team throughout this season. Jabari Parker, who is naturally a small forward, is often seen playing center for the Blue Devils.
In each of the Blue Devils' four losses this season, they have been out-rebounded by their opponent, and their lack of ability on the glass has caused many other games to remain closer than they should have been. After a grind-out win over Virginia and a dominant performance over North Carolina State, it was important for Duke to be aggressive when taking on Miami’s zone defense.
The Blue Devils took control of the glass early in this game and didn’t look back. Coach Krzyzewski’s team won the rebounding battle 42-28, including 15 offensive rebounds.
The game plan was clearly to go right at the 2-3 zone. It stayed close early, but what allowed Duke to keep stretching its lead was dominance on the glass. It seemed as if Jabari Parker and Amile Jefferson were coming down with every Duke miss.
Duke will need to continue to rebound the ball the way it did against Miami in its upcoming games. Without the size that some of the other top teams have, the Blue Devils need to hustle and work as hard as they did against the Hurricanes if they want to be able to compete for rebounds.
Ball Movement is Essential
In an outstanding performance, every Duke player was moving the ball and making the extra pass. It seemed as if on every possession Duke would swing it around the perimeter until someone got the perfect shot.
Once the Blue Devils got into their rhythm, their ball movement and energy continually got better. Duke was pumped up for this game and simply played harder and better basketball than its opponent.
When the Blue Devils are playing well, they’re going to give everybody trouble because when they’re playing at this level and having fun, they move the ball extremely well.
Open shots win you games, and to get those open shots you have to move the ball. Duke has plenty of scorers, and although Jabari Parker is the big name, he’ll need everybody else to continue to play well for this team to succeed.
Duke is Ready for Syracuse
The Blue Devils have two games before they have to play Syracuse, and if they lose their focus, they could lose both of those games. On Saturday, Duke takes on Florida State before traveling to Pittsburgh on Monday.
After those two games, Duke will have its big matchup against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. The question leading up to that game will be, can Duke pull off the upset? The answer is yes.
Syracuse should beat Duke, but the Blue Devils have a good shot at sneaking away with a win.
The matchup of Jim Boeheim vs. Coach K will be fun to watch no matter what. How will Coach K attack the suffocating ‘Cuse defense and how will Duke attempt to slow down C.J. Fair and Tyler Ennis?
The key to the matchup will be perimeter shooting, where the Blue Devils are very proficient from behind the arc. Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, Quinn Cook, Andre Dawkins and Rasheed Sulaimon can all hit shots from deep.
Duke must put a man in the middle of Syracuse’s zone and play through him offensively. Baseline cuts and kick-outs to perimeter shooters are going to be the way to beat ‘Cuse.
The Blue Devils showed in the win over Miami that they could handle Syracuse, by moving the ball as well as they did. The hustle and passion displayed Wednesday night in Miami will also be necessary when they travel to New York, but you can bet that Coach K will definitely have his team fired up for that one.
Parker, Hood and their guards will all have to play at their best, but they are capable of beating the zone.
Duke has been up and down so far this season, but winning the next couple of games would be a great way to get into a nice stride going into the Syracuse game.
Coach K’s team will continue to get better throughout the season, as will the individual games of Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood.
Can Duke get hot and climb its way back into the Top 10? The team has the talent—we just have to see if they can keep it rolling.