Tigers open ACC play at No. 7 Duke

CLEMSON - No. 18 Clemson's first road game in conference play starts on Tobacco Road Sunday night when the Tigers travel to Durham to face Duke.

WHAT: No. 18 Clemson at No. 7 Duke
WHERE: Cameron Indoor Stadium (9,314) - Durham, N.C.
WHEN: Sunday, January 3 (7:45 PM)
TV: Fox Sports Net

"It doesn't get much bigger and more significant than that," said coach Oliver Purnell.

"I just know it's never easy to play on the road in your opener. For the other team, it's their opener too."

Purnell took Clemson on the road for games at North Carolina-Greensboro, Liberty and East Carolina earlier this season to help better prepare for conference road games.

But of course none of those venues quite compare to playing before the crazies.

There are only four players on the Clemson roster who've played within the confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium. Tanner Smith will be playing for the first time at Duke. He's talked to several players from around the ACC about playing at Duke.

"It's a crazy atmosphere where you have to make sure you keep your head in all the situations, in the good times and the bad," he said. "The adrenaline is just really going to go there. We've got to make sure we just keep our head."

The Tigers have won each of the last two games against the Blue Devils after losing 22 in a row. Clemson won 74-47 in Littlejohn Coliseum last season and Purnell believes the blowout will "probably" have Duke looking to avenge the loss.

"I don't think that will be lost on them," he said.

Jon Scheyer (pictured above) leads Duke in scoring with 18.6 points per game while Kyle Singler averages 15.9 for the 11-1 Blue Devils. The Tigers have won each of the last two games against Duke after losing 22 in a row. (Getty Images)
If Clemson wins, it will be the first three-game winning streak over Duke since the Rick Barnes era. For that to happen, Purnell said his team will have to play like they have in the games they've played well in.

That starts on the defensive end of the floor.

"Their big three perimeter guys pose problems," he said. "Their size also poses a problem. Their auxiliary players also score with their size inside."

Jon Scheyer leads Duke in scoring with 18.6 points per game while Kyle Singler averages 15.9 for the 11-1 Blue Devils. Both are shooting over 37 percent from behind the 3-point line. Andre Dawkins is averaging 9.8 points off the bench and shoots 47 percent from behind the arc.

Rebounding and blocking out continue as areas of concern for Purnell, especially against a Duke team that out rebounds its opponents by almost seven a game.

"We've got to box out their 6-11 plus guys, in order to keep them off the offensive glass," he said. "You don't want to give Duke easy baskets by turning the ball over at half court on a play you can't guard, and on offensive rebounds."

Smith said he and his teammates are trying to elevate their level to being a great team, which he considers Duke to be.

"They've got a lot of basketball players. They're not necessarily one-position or one-dimensional guys," he said. "We just need to show we're basketball players and we can defend them."

Coming off a 70-67 win against South Carolina State on Tuesday, Smith is excited about the start of ACC play.

"I'm really excited. I think we're ready, but it's a big test to start the new year and star the ACC," he said.

No. 18 Clemson (12-2)
G #2 Demontez Stitt (6-2,175) - 10.1 PPG, 3.6 APG
G #5 Tanner Smith (6-5, 220) - 10.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG
C #45 Jerai Grant (6-8,220) - 5.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG
F #15 David Potter (6-6,205) - 8.1 PPG, 2.9 RPG
F #35 Trevor Booker (6-7,240) - 14.8 PPG, 8.9 RPG

No. 7 Duke (11-1)
G #2 Nolan Smith (6-2, 185) - 13.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG
G #30 Jon Scheyer (6-5,190) - 18.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG
F #42 Lance Thomas (6-8,225) - 6 PPG, 4.6 RPG
F #12 Kyle Singler (6-8,230) - 15.1 PPG, 7.2 RPG
F #21 Miles Plumlee (6-10,240) - 7.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG

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