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Home » Maximizing Height Advantage and Shuttering Strong Virginia Backcourt: Keys for Duke Men’s Basketball Success

Maximizing Height Advantage and Shuttering Strong Virginia Backcourt: Keys for Duke Men’s Basketball Success

08 February 2023, Wednesday
The Blue Devils will try to rebound from their Miami defeat when they visit Virginia, currently ranked 8th in the nation, on Saturday afternoon. Ahead of the game, the Blue Zone has reviewed the film on the Cavaliers in order to prepare Duke for the challenge. 

This road game against a talented ACC team will provide the Blue Devils with an opportunity to hone their skills for the remaining games of the regular season. With only seven games left, Duke will have to take full advantage of this chance to prove itself.

The Cavaliers displayed an impressive seven-game winning streak during the month of January, largely thanks to the strong backcourt combination of Reece Beekman and Kihei Clark. This impressive feat was capped off with consecutive, convincing victories against tough ACC rivals- something which Duke have not been able to match this season. Unfortunately, the streak was brought to an end when they faced Virginia Tech in a rivalry matchup.

Beekman and Clark form the foundation of this squad, and the Blue Devils must maximize their consistent contributions on both offense and defense if they are to secure the win. Clark produces well, racking up an average of 11.6 points and six assists per game. Even while going up against a tough Hokies defense, he still managed to record 17 points and four assists. In this play, he faces up Collins of the Hokies and breezes right past him for a layup.

The Blue Devils must find a way to counter Clark's success in the paint if they want to come away victorious in their upcoming matchup. Thankfully, they have Dereck Lively II on their side. With a height of 7-foot-1, he stands five inches taller than any starter on Virginia's roster and a whopping 13 inches taller than Clark himself. His defense around the basket has been highly effective, as evidenced by his average of 2.4 blocks per game. The most recent example of this was his eight blocks in the Duke-UNC game last Saturday, which proved to be instrumental in the Blue Devils' victory. Just watch as he shuts down Pete Nance's windmill dunk attempt!

The Virginia Cavaliers felt the effects of their height deficiency in their loss to Virginia Tech. The Hokies had a clear size advantage that caused issues for the Cavaliers on the defensive end, as they lacked a true center to protect them in the paint. Kyle Filipowski, who stands seven feet tall, capitalized on the mismatch to score an easy lay-up. His size and length made it difficult for the Cavaliers to contain him, and this type of mismatch could spell trouble for Duke in the future if they don't find ways to counteract it.

The Blue Devils will need to address some issues ahead of Saturday's game to come away with a win. Committing a large amount of turnovers hurt the team when they faced the Miami Hurricanes, so they need to concentrate on effective and accurate passing to get their offense going again. Tyrese Proctor, a freshman guard, tried to make a pass that resulted in a powerful, game-changing dunk for the Miami team. If Duke is to be successful come Saturday, they need to work on cutting down these errors.

To take advantage of the height mismatch in the matchup against the Tar Heels, Duke must continue to count on their big men. Solid defense and aggressive play in the paint can help the Blue Devils gain an edge. With just seven games left before the end of the season, it is imperative that Duke be mindful of their errors and develop a distinct style of play relying on Filipowski and Lively.

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