Tonight in a highly anticipated prime time matchup between two top 10 programs – # 10 ranked Duke hosts #6 ranked Illinois. The game can be seen on ESPN starting at 9:30 P.M. and broadcasted on the Blue Devils Radio Network.
Both the Blue Devils and the Fighting Illini have already faced early defeat from top-10 competition this season. Duke being defeated by Michigan State inside Cameron just last week and Illinois losing to an athletic, defensive minded Baylor squad.
Tonight marks the eighth game between the two schools, with Duke leading the series 5-2. Duke is 19-2 all time during the ACC/Big 10 challenge.
What are the 3 keys for Duke to handle business tonight?
Handle the Rock
The young guards of Duke – Jeremy Roach and D.J. Steward, face their biggest test of the early season. Illinois junior point guard Ayo Dosunmu, a player of the year favorite, will give Duke a much needed test, applying pressure and intensity non-stop. Ayo is the heart and soul of the fighting Illini and resembles former Dukie Tre Jones on the defensive end. Averaging 23 points,7 rebounds and 6 assists, Ayo does it all. Expect Jordan Goldwire to matchup with Ayo Dosunmu much of the game – as Jordan stated yesterday during a pregame presser. The Devils average 17 turnovers a game, something that Coach K has reiterated numerous times has to be cleaned up for this team to succeed. If Duke takes care of the rock tonight, they will defeat Illinois. Plain and simple.
Matthew Hurt and Jalen Johnson Must Keep Their Hands Out the Cookie Jar
In back to back contest the freshman sensation Jalen Johnson has had limited playing time due to foul trouble. Versus Michigan State, Jalen picked up two early fouls – sending him to the bench, ultimately changing the flow of the game for Duke. Versus Bellarmine, Johnson repeated the same ordeal tacking two fouls in the first 3 minutes of the game, resulting in him being benched for the entire first half.
Duke has Matthew Hurt, who is averaging 19 points and 8 rebounds (shooting 56 percent from deep) playing a stretch 5 position. Yes, Hurt gained 30 pounds during the off-season and showed flashes against Bellarmine, going 6 of 8 from downtown – forcing the defender to step outside the paint and defend the perimeter, but when the shot is not falling can Hurt attack the lane against more athletic defenders and not shy away from contact? The fighting Illini feature Kofi Cockburn, a 7-foot rim stopper who averages nearly a double-double (13 points and 9 rebounds) who is phenomenal at controlling the glass. Staying out of foul trouble will be paramount for both Jalen and Matthew.
Yes, Wendell Moore we are talking about you. Moore, the returning sophomore who many expected to be a leading catalyst for this team, has been short of those high expectations to start the season. Shooting 11 percent from 3 and 25 percent from the field, Moore has yet to provide the offense that Duke lacks from the shooting guard/small forward position. This is more about being focused and allowing the game to come to him. He looks lost out on the floor at times and has constantly dribbled the ball off his own feet while attacking double teams on the interior. At times Wendell looked like he hasn’t gotten any better in the off-season. This kid has all the intangibles, but just doesn’t seem focused. If Duke wants to succeed this season the sophomore will need to completely turn his game on, shut out the outside noise and play Duke basketball – starting on the defensive end.