After suffering back to back top-ten losses, some expect tonight’s contest versus former Duke protégé Mike Brey and Notre Dame will be a bounce back game. Unfortunately, this isn’t your father’s classic Duke team, surrounded by veterans and dominant post players.
This young, unproven squad will face its first official road test against a fighting Irish team who just won a very emotional game at Rupp arena against preseason top 10 Kentucky. To make matters worse, it was announced last night the Blue Devils will be without potential lottery pick Jalen Johnson – who is out indefinitely with a foot injury. The team didn’t provide specific details about the injury, just that the star freshman did not travel to South Bend….It wouldn’t officially be Duke basketball season, without a foot injury now would it? Johnson, who is the team’s primary scorer and can defend positions 1-5, averages 11 points and 8 rebounds.
No excuses will be made and certainly no one is going to feel sorry for Coach K and company…Next man up mentality.
If Duke wants to get back on track tonight they will have to stop Prentiss Hubb, a combo guard whose ability and craftiness to get into the lane will be a task for Goldwire, Steward, and Roach. Hubb, who averages 21 points per game and 4 dimes, is shooting 41 percent from downtown to start the season.
Expect a lot of Jaemyn Brakefield for Duke tonight with the indefinite absence of Johnson. Jaemyn, a lefty, only averages 7 points per game, but his energy off the bench immediately impacts the game when he’s on the court – shooting 55 percent from the field and 56% from deep.
As a collective group, Duke will have to create its identity. The Devils struggle with not just turnovers, but moving the ball in its half-court offense. Who will establish themselves as the next tier scorer for Duke remains to be seen. Yes, Matthew Hurt is surely capable of taking over at a moments glance, but Hurt tends to get in foul trouble playing a stretch 5 against more athletic and physical teams. Against Illinois, Coach K played Jalen Johnson a lot against the more physical Kofi Cockburn instead of Hurt.
This phrase hasn’t been stated a lot around this program due to its excellence, but tonight is a must-win for Duke. PERIOD!
Catch the action on ESPN, 9 P.M. and over radio airways on the Blue Devils Sports Network.