Earlier this month, Duke hosted Wake Forest and took care of business with an 80-62 win to begin their ACC schedule. When the Blue Devils face the Demon Deacons on Wednesday, however, they will do so without senior Ryan Kelly whose 22 points tied for the game-high and were one of the keys to victory for Duke.
Kelly’s absence is something that has haunted every article we’ve written here but this will be the first of several instances where the difference he makes can actually be quantified by tangible statistics. Sure, you can compare the team’s averages before and after but until you can compare performances against the same opponent the perspective will always be a little cloudy.
That Jan. 5 matchup will now be used as the first official measuring stick of how good Duke is without Kelly in the lineup. Fortunately for the Blue Devils, they have had a few games to flesh out a contingency plan and Wake will be getting full force of their post-Kelly lineup.
So with that in mind, here are some key things to keep an eye on when Duke takes on Wake Forest tonight at 8 p.m. on ESPN3 and the ACC Network.
Quinn Cook’s command of the offense
When these two teams last met, Quinn Cook had one of the weirder stat lines in college basketball this season. Cook struggled shooting the ball, finishing 0-for-11 from the field and 0-for-4 from three, but he made up for that by notching a season-high 14 assists with many of them going to Kelly and Seth Curry.
Cook has been great all year for Duke and if he can exhibit similar command of the offense and score a little bit more than last time the Blue Devils will coast to victory.
Devin Thomas and Travis McKie on the boards
The Demon Deacons’ two forwards combined for 23 of Wake’s 43 rebounds against Duke back on Jan. 5. If they are allowed to dominate the glass to that level and Thomas can shoot the ball better than his 0-for-4 effort last time it will make life very difficult on Duke’s already-sparse frontcourt.
It has been commonplace this season for Duke to get out-rebounded and still win but Thomas has had a nice stretch of play recently and if he can get himself going on the boards, the carryover to the rest of his game could make life tough on the Blue Devils.
Rasheed Sulaimon’s hot streak continuing
I wrote a few days ago about just how red-hot Rasheed Sulaimon has been this season. The numbers speak for themselves: 18 points, 60 percent shooting, 61 percent from three. If he can be 75 percent as effective as he has been over the last three games, Duke will run away with this game.
Sulaimon’s role in the offense has gone from supplementary to necessary with Kelly being out of the lineup. He stretches the floor on the opposite side of Curry and his ability to move without the ball has opened up tons of catch-and-shoot opportunities from Mason Plumlee.
Other things worth watching:
- Mason Plumlee’s face up game vs. post up game.
- McKie and C.J. Harris trying to equal the 44 points they combined for last time.
- Alex Murphy sightings.
- Amile Jefferson‘s ability to get to the free throw line.