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Duke Preview

January 18, 2010
Chris R.
Special To YANCSSB

It would be an understatement to say the Pack will have its hands full with the Devils’ potent offense when powerhouse Duke comes into the RBC Center Wednesday night. Matchup issues will provide Sidney Lowe his sternest test of the year, leaving him few options should key players falter.

Lowe has made better adjustments the past two games versus FSU and Clemson, but even the savviest game plan may not be enough as Duke looks to continue its dominance. Jon Scheyer, always a steady player but never flashy, is producing ACC Player of the Year-caliber numbers this year. Scheyer is second in the ACC in points per game at 18.9, first in three-point FG per game (2.7) and free throw percentage (90.5%), and is running away in the assist/turnover ratio at 4.1 (the closest contender is Eric Hayes of Maryland with 2.5).

Julius Mays or Javi Gonzalez will have their hands full when defending Scheyer as Duke will employ plenty of high ball screens to get him open from the arc. And when covered, you can expect Scheyer to make smart decisions with the ball to get it in the hands of Duke’s other playmakers on the floor.

Perhaps the most surprising player for the Devils this year is Nolan Smith. After sitting out the first two games of the season, he is averaging 18.3 points per game and shooting 50% from three-point range. Farnold Degand and CJ Williams will have to keep Smith in check, as he looks to score whenever he touches the ball.

Senior Lance Thomas starts on the wing for Duke and will be a bigger and taller player than Scott Wood is used to defending. While his stats are not indicative of what you might expect from a senior leader such as Thomas, he will use his big frame attacking the glass as an extra rebounder. Wood will have to account for him every time a shot goes up.

The biggest matchup issue of the night? Kyle Singler. A quick and athletic 6’8” forward, Singler loves to spot up for three as much as taking it to the basket. Singler is averaging 18.3 points per game and has made as many three-point shots as guard Nolan Smith. His speed and agility will pose problems for whomever State decides to put on him. Lowe would probably like to assign the more athletic Dennis Horner to him than Richard Howell, but Horner has been slowed recently by a knee injury sustained earlier in the year and his play has suffered accordingly. Regardless of who draws the defensive assignment, expect Singler to have a very good game versus the Pack.

In the middle, Tracy Smith will give up some height to Sophomore Miles Plumlee. Also quick and athletic, Plumlee has registered 17 blocks and 21 dunks this season for the Devils. Smith will need to have a strong game on both sides of the ball for State to have a chance in this game.

Keys to the Game:

  • State will have to limit its turnovers as to keep the number of Duke possessions to a minimum. Duke leads the conference in scoring and will torch the Pack if given the opportunity.
  • Knock on Wood: Scott Wood will need to spark the Pack from the outside to keep Duke from packing the lane and shutting down Howell and Smith in the middle.
  • State’s best bet will be to play man-to-man and try their best to keep Scheyer, Singler and Smith in front of them.
  • A possible scenario may be to assign Wood to guard Singler, leaving Howell to account for Thomas. Wood has shown an ability to guard bigger players and is a threat to block a shot or two. However, the officials’ tendency to call games tight against Duke could result in Wood getting into foul trouble early, forcing Lowe to pull him off the floor and to replace him with offensively challenged CJ Williams.
  • A game of runs: In Duke’s last two outings against BC and Wake, they have used second-half scoring runs to put the game out of reach. State will have to keep Duke off balance and keep what is sure to be a strong Duke contingent quiet to have a chance.

Prediction: Duke 78 State 64

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