3 Keys to Beating Duke

It's been 46 years since the Tigers played in the ACC Championship game. One team separates Clemson from doing again.

#1. POUND IT INSIDE
If there is one area where the Tigers have a clear advantage entering Saturday's matchup with Duke, it's inside. Trevor Booker, James Mays and even Raymond Sykes have to be ready to have the games of their lives. The good news is Mays is playing at a different level now that he's close to 100 percent and Sykes is playing as well as he ever has after scoring 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting Friday night against Boston College. However the key may be Booker, who can be dominant at times, but can also disappear. The good news is he scored 15 points in the first matchup against the Devils. All three of Clemson's key post players will have to be playing at a high level in order for Clemson to win. The Tigers' guards must also make sure to run the offense, getting the ball inside on every possession while not falling in love with the three-point shot in order to maximize Clemson's post production.

#2. HANDLE THE PRESSURE
Remember what happened Friday night against Boston College? The Tigers forced 22 turnovers which led to almost 40 points. Sounds good right? Well, the same thing happened to the Tigers in their first matchup with Duke. In a 93-80 loss at Durham back in January, the Tigers committed 21 turnovers, which led to 37 Duke points. That can't happen again Saturday afternoon if Clemson is going to have any chance of pulling the upset. Clemson's backcourt must handle Duke's defensive pressure, while also forcing the Blue Devils' backcourt into poor decisions as well. Both Cliff Hammonds and Demontez Stitt have to make good decisions with the basketball and keep the turnovers down to a minimum. Remember, the Blue Devils wound up with 20 baskets from within two feet of the rim in the last matchup with the Tigers, most of which came off their 13 steals.

#3. DEFEND THE THREE
Duke was expected to be good this year, but not this good. Credit Mike Krzyzewski for recognizing the strength of his team is in its outside shooting, not in its interior post game. Duke spreads the floor on offense allowing players like DeMarcus Nelson and Gerald Henderson to penetrate before kicking it out to Jon Scheyer, Greg Paulus and Kyle Singler for wide open looks from behind the arc. Duke is also outstanding and grabbing loose balls and rebounds turning them into back-breaking three-pointers. The Tigers must defend the three-point arc at all costs Saturday afternoon and limit the Blue Devils' long-range opportunities. Easier said than done, of course.

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