After each Duke men’s basketball game this season, check back here for the Player of the Game and more. Duke got back to its winning ways against Charlotte behind a dominant backcourt performance, and the Blue Zone analyzes the action:
One player: Jared McCain
As part of a performance that saw him score a career-high 21 points, Duke freshman guard Jared McCain embellished his career night by compiling three assists and three rebounds on 7-for-13 shooting. McCain was one of four Duke players with double-digit scoring, including veteran guards Jeremy Roach and Jaylen Blakes, followed by sophomore forward Mark Mitchell. In a game which saw freshman guard Caleb Foster start as a result of Tyrese Proctor’s injury, the freshman duo managed to contribute fairly well, headed by McCain’s effective offensive outing.
On another note, McCain definitely looked much more confident driving the basketball and penetrating Charlotte’s defense. The three shots he made from beyond the arc were the most he has had since scoring five against Bucknell Nov. 17. While the 49ers defense was not as effective in forcing turnovers and pressuring Duke’s offense, this performance is an encouraging sign for the Sacramento, Calif., native who had struggled in the past two games. It is also worth noting that star center Kyle Filipowski ended only with five points on 2-for-10 shooting from the field, the least amount he has had in the 2023-24 campaign so far. The imposing presence of Charlotte’s center Igor Milicic was crucial in making Filipowski shoot uncomfortable shots. While this was the case, it is promising to see other players step up offensively when Filipowski is struggling, especially McCain.
So far this season, McCain is averaging 39.4% from the field and 41% from 3-point range with an average of 9.1 points per game. While McCain’s 3-point shooting has generally stayed consistent, his struggle has mainly come with his shooting from the field. With a higher amount of transition points from the team and more driving lanes open, McCain showed that he is capable of shooting effectively from the field, making him a potent offensive threat.
One word: Turnaround
By emerging victorious, the Blue Devils were able to jump back from a recent losing streak, winning their first game since Nov. 24 against Southern Indiana. However, Duke is still looking to get past its back-to-back losses and regain its status as one of the better teams in the nation. With an encouraging win at home, the Blue Devils are hoping for this to be the first step towards a better future. The team is scheduled to face Hofstra at Cameron Indoor Stadium Dec. 12 and then play No. 6 Baylor at Madison Square Garden in New York in what looks to be a showdown that has important implications for the team’s standing as a national championship contender.
One stat: 17 fast-break points
After only scoring six total points off the fast break against Georgia Tech Dec. 2, the Blue Devils more than doubled their fast-break points for this game. This was crucial especially during the first half where the team managed to outscore the 49ers 45-27 to gain a solid lead going into the half. The substantial amount of points generated off the fast break also indicates Duke’s dominance in controlling the pace of the game. During the past three games, the Blue Devils had been struggling offensively, often leading to difficult shots and shot-clock violations. With higher fast-break points, the Blue Devils were able to build a lead quickly and in doing so, used their defense to help the offense which often culminated with low-percentage shots.
More than being the highest amount of points Duke has scored off the fast break this season, the 17 points demonstrates the possibility of a fast-paced offense in the coming games. If head coach Jon Scheyer and the Blue Devils are able to replicate this production, then it shows how Duke can use a stifling defense to help its offense produce.
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