Struggling Duke basketball team faces difficult road challenge, again

Duke basketball forward Wendell Moore (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Duke basketball forward Wendell Moore (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

The Duke basketball team is back on the road for yet another tough challenge. 

For the second straight time in ACC play, the Duke basketball team is riding a three-game losing streak.

The Blue Devils (7-8, 5-6 ACC) have yet to see a four-game losing streak this season, but the team has historically struggled on the road against North Carolina State (8-8, 4-7 ACC).

There will not be fans in attendance, but Duke has lost four of its last five games against the Wolfpack in Raleigh, and Saturday will not be any easier.

Despite not having leading scorer Devon Daniels because of an ACL tear suffered earlier this season, head coach Kevin Keatts still has the forward play of Jericole Hellems and DJ Funderburk.

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Hellems is averaging 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 46.9-percent from the field, 40.0-percent from three-point range, and 81.6-percent from the free throw line.

Funderburk will surely cause headaches for Duke in the paint, standing at 6-foot-10, 225 pounds.

The senior forward is posting 12.0 points and 5.2 rebounds per game and posted 21 points and nine rebounds in the Wolfpack’s 22-point upset victory over the Blue Devils last season.

Perhaps Mike Krzyzewski will catch a break as of the three leading scorers for North Carolina State in that victory, Daniels, Funderburk, and Markelle Johnson, only Funberburk will suit up against Duke on Saturday afternoon.

The trio combined for 74 of NC State’s 88 points.

Duke basketball has to win with its defense

In its last two losses to North Carolina and Notre Dame, scoring has not been the problem for the Blue Devils.

Duke has posted 87 and 89 points, respectively. However, Krzyzewski’s young squad has allowed 91 and 93 points, respectively.

The Blue Devils have allowed mediocre to bad offensive teams to look flawless against them, and aside from all the other issues, that remains the biggest as an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament continues to further itself from the five-time National Champions.

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Mike Krzyzewski has flirted with a 2-3 zone as well as his patented man-to-man defense, and this team still can’t figure out how to keep the other team from scoring.

It’s the biggest key to the game. If Duke is able to slow NC State, without its leading scorer, and limit the Wolfpack to one shot down the floor, the Blue Devils will win. If not, the Pack will win.

Tipoff is scheduled for 4:00pm EST (ESPN) at PNC Arena.

PREDICTION: Duke 85, North Carolina State 76

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