(Photo of Carlik Jones: Sam Upshaw Jr. via the Atlantic Coast Conference)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Coming off of a 45-point blowout and short their best player, the Louisville men's basketball program was able to take a step in the right direction, downing Notre Dame 69-57 at the KFC Yum! Center.
Next up for the Cardinals (12-5, 7-4 ACC), they will head back on the road and face Duke (11-9, 9-6 ACC) at Cameron Indoor Center. Tipoff is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 27 at 6:00 p.m. EST on ESPN.
Here are a couple of the more significant storylines to follow ahead of Cardinals' matchup with the Blue Devils:
Getting Back in the Right Direction
After Louisville downed Duke in their first meeting to send them to .500 on the season, the Blue Devils continued to struggle over the next two weeks, going 2-3 to drop them to 7-8 overall and 5-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference - the first time that they had been below .500 since November of 1999.
But since falling to Notre Dame back on Feb. 9, Duke has somehow flipped a switch. Heading into their matchup with Louisville, the Blue Devils have won four in a row, including a crucial 66-65 home win against Virginia.
Even more impressively is that through most of their current win streak, Duke has been without one of their top players. Not long after their streak go started at NC State, freshman forward Jalen Johnson declared that he was opting of the remainder of the season and declaring for the NBA. While he had missed some time due to injury at that point, he had been averaging 11.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game.
While Duke is starting to turn things around as far as their win/loss record, as well as their chances at making the NCAA Tournament, the Blue Devils are still exceptionally bad at giving up three-pointers.
Since playing Louisville, Duke has allowed their opponents to shoot 37.7% from beyond the arc. They have allowed at least seven threes six of their nine games during that span, even giving up double-digits three-pointers to both Notre Dame and UNC.
Of course, during their four-game win streak, it has gotten marginally better, as they are allowing just 31.9%. However, Wake Forest still managed to connect on seven, Syracuse was able to hit eight, and Virginia made five while only taking eleven attempts.
On the flip side of that coin, Duke themselves have still managed to be able to connect on three-pointers. Throughout the season, they have shot 36.4% on three-pointer, the fourth-most in the ACC.
A large part of Duke's recent success has been the increased play of sophomore forward Matthew Hurt, who was already the Blue Devils' leading scorer to begin with.
During their four-game win streak, Hurt is averaging 20.8 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, is shooting an absurd 67.4% from the field and is 16-24 (66.7%) on three-point attempts.
In their last game against Louisville, Hurt was significantly limited in the second half solely because David Johnson was guarding him. With Johnson missing the game vs. Notre Dame and his status vs. Duke this weekend up in the air, Hurt could very well indeed continue on his hot streak.
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