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Monday January 24th

Analysis: What Tre Jones will provide Duke on both ends against UNC

Duke's sophomore guard Tre Jones (3) shoots the ball during the game against Syracuse on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020. Duke beat Syracuse 97-88. Photo by Henry Haggart, courtesy of The Chronicle.
Buy Photos Duke's sophomore guard Tre Jones (3) shoots the ball during the game against Syracuse on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020. Duke beat Syracuse 97-88. Photo by Henry Haggart, courtesy of The Chronicle.

Tre Jones has been the engine that makes Duke go this season. 

Duke’s sophomore guard is known for his elite on-ball defense and crafty distribution skills. In his first year, Jones was named to the ACC All-Defensive Team and recorded the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the history of the program. He was the only returning starter from one of the most enthralling teams in the history of college basketball, so he had to deal with almost complete turnover in the lineup.

This season, the Blue Devils’ captain has done more of the same, except with an improved ability to score.

Despite missing two games this season with a mild left foot sprain, Jones has averaged 15.2 points per game and has accumulated 133 assists this season. He is clearly the captain of the ship, as the next-closest Blue Devil has just 56 assists.

But it is not just his ability to distribute the ball that makes him an All-ACC performer. The guard's defense is his best trait.

Jones pocketed 68 steals last season and already has 38 steals in 21 games through this year’s campaign. 

He contained Coby White in the first UNC-Duke matchup in 2019, only allowing the North Carolina guard to score nine points, but struggled to contain White in the second matchup in which he scored 21 points for the Tar Heels.

When North Carolina and Duke face off on Saturday, Jones will be tasked with guarding a very different player in Cole Anthony. The UNC guard, one of the most elite scorers in the country, is back on the court for the Tar Heels. But how has Jones performed against similar competition?

He has faced off against two of the nation’s best point guards this season when the Blue Devils played Kansas and Michigan State. Against Devon Dotson and Kansas, Jones allowed the Jayhawk guard to score 17 points on 5-9 shooting.

But Jones cleaned things up by the time he faced Cassius Winston and Michigan State. Winston, a consensus pick to the preseason AP All-America Team, was limited to 12 points on 4-14 shooting against Duke. Jones shut down one of the best guards in the country en route to an 87-75 win for the Blue Devils.

It is clear that the sophomore is an elite defender and has handled some great players. But more impressively, Jones scored 15 and 20 points on Dotson and Winston, respectively.

His offensive game could also be cause for concern for the Tar Heels on Saturday. If they let him drive and distribute the ball, it is going to be a long night for UNC. 

One potential way to stop Jones and get him flustered is forcing him to shoot 3-pointers. While he's shooting an improved 34.7 percent from deep this season, he was just 26.2 percent from distance last year.

He’s a great distributor and finisher, so Anthony and the other North Carolina guards will need to keep Jones beyond the 3-point line if they want to shut him down. Limiting Jones' paint entries will be a big key to a potential Tar Heel win on Saturday.

@matt_chilson

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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