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In a battle of elite big men, guard play the difference as No. 4 Duke beats No. 2 Wisconsin

Army v Duke

Army v Duke

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In the buildup ahead of No. 4 Duke’s game at No. 2 Wisconsin, the major talking point was the individual matchup between Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky. With the two big men playing the same position, albeit in different ways, how each team handled the other defensively would undoubtedly be a factor.

However the difference was Duke’s perimeter play, as Mike Krzyzewski’s guards got the better of a more experienced Wisconsin backcourt in their 80-70 victory in Madison.

As a team the Blue Devils shot 65.2% from the field, with freshman point guard Tyus Jones tallying 22 points, six rebounds and four assists. Fellow guards Rasheed Sulaimon (14 points) and Quinn Cook (13) also reached double figures, and with Okafor contributing 13 points and six rebounds Duke was able to get the looks they for most of the night.

By comparison Wisconsin shot 43.1% and had just two players in double figures, with Traevon Jackson scoring 25 points and Kaminsky adding 17 and nine rebounds. Defense was the biggest issue for Wisconsin against Duke, but there were also times when they looked to be somewhat confused by what Duke was doing defensively.

In an attempt to combat Kaminsky’s pick-and-pop prowess Duke switched those ball screens, and the resulting hesitation was enough to keep the 7-footer from doing too much damage offensively. Add in quiet nights from forwards Sam Dekker (five points) and Nigel Hayes (four), and it it tough to see why Wisconsin ended up suffering their first loss of the season.

While the matchup of the big men was the biggest conversation point heading into the game, the question of how Duke’s young players would handle their first true road game was also mentioned. And while there’s still room for growth, such as their defending the three as Wisconsin shot 9-for-18, overall the Blue Devils put forth a performance worthy of a national title contender.

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