Preview: Duke (16-3) vs. Clemson (18-2)

Previewing the Blue Devils and Tigers who tip off on Thursday night in Durham. The game will be broadcast on ESPN beginning at 7:00 PM EST.


10 Duke (16-3, 3-2) vs. 17 Clemson (18-6, 4-2)
Durham, N.C. - Cameron Indoor Stadium
7:00 p.m., ESPN

Program Vitals
Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference
Nickname: Tigers
Colors: Orange, Purple, & White
Head Coach:  Oliver Purnell  (4th year)
Career Record at Clemson: 63-49 (319-240 Overall) 

Projected Starters:
 3 Vernon Hamilton (6-0, 195, Sr.) - 11.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.8 apg
25 Cliff Hammonds (6-3, 197, Jr.) – 11.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.7 apg
40 James Mays (6-9, 225, Jr.) – 13.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg
 1 K.C. Rivers (6-5, 210, So.) – 14.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg
35 Trevor Booker (6-7, 215, Fr.) – 9.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg

Key Reserves:
32 Sam Perry (6-5, 208, Jr.) - 5.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg
42 Julius Powell (6-7, 208, So.) – 3.3 ppg
15 David Potter (6-6, 180, Fr.) – 3.0 ppg
12 Raymond Sykes (6-9, 205, So.) – 2.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg

Storylines:

How They Got Here: Duke enters Thursday's game riding a three game conference win streak that includes wins over NC State, Wake Forest, and Miami by an average just north of 22 points per game. Those three victories have pulled Duke from the bottom of the ACC standings into a tie for fifth, just two games behind league leading Boston College. Just above the Blue Devils in the standings sit the Clemson Tigers, who won their first 17 games of the season, before dropping two of their last three. However, after losing to North Carolina by 20, the Tigers rebounded to rout the league's last undefeated team, Boston College, 74-54 on Sunday.

Series History:
Saturday afternoon will mark the 125th time the two teams have met, with Duke holding a 97-27 advantage in the series. The Blue Devils have won a remarkable 19 straight in the series, dating back to the 1996-1997 season. Clemson's last victory over Duke was an 86-82 overtime victory on January 7th, 1997 in Littlejon Coliseum. Under Coach K, the Blue Devils are 43-9 all time vs. the Tigers. Duke also owns a 52-4 series advantage in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Injury Report: Duke sophomore guard Martynas Pocious returned to action against NC State after missing several games with an undisclosed ankle injury. Entering Thursday night, both teams' injury report is clear of major instances.

High Scoring Tiger Roadshow:
On the season the Tigers are averaging 77 points per game on 47% shooting from the field. Coach Purnell's team is extremely athletic and attacks the rim on every possession, but has also shown the ability to hit the perimeter jumper, converting 35% as a team. Amazingly enough, Clemson has been better offensively on the road, averaging 80.0 points per game on 49.3% shooting, while putting up a 7-1 record away from Littlejon.

Clemson has two ACC road wins in the bank so far this year, wins at Florida State and NC State. Clemson has not won three ACC road games in the same year since 1996-97 (4-4) and has done it just three times in the last 29 years. A victory at Duke would give Clemson two road wins in the North Carolina Triangle for just the third time in history. The only other years it has happened were in 1976-77 and 1994-95.

Not Your Typical Tigers:
For years the Tigers' season script involved loading up on a light pre-conference schedule before struggling mightily in ACC play. In 2007 however, Clemson is looking to prove they belong amongst the top teams in the league. Through six conference games they are 4-2 and ranked 17th by USA Today and 19th by the AP - making it the fifth straight week the Tigers have appeared in the national rankings. However, Clemson is 0-2 against other top 25 teams on the season, losing to then No. 25 Maryland 92-87, and to No. 4 North Carolina 77-55.

The Streak:
•Duke's 19-game winning streak over Clemson is the second longest in history against the Tigers by an ACC team. North Carolina beat Clemson 25 consecutive games between 1953-63. However, in every one of those 19 games - in other words Duke has been ranked in the top 10 every year at some point since the middle of the 1997 season. Six of the 19 games Duke has entered the game ranked number-one in the nation, including last year's 10-point Duke win at Clemson.

During these 19 games, Clemson has held the final Duke margin of victory under 10 points just five times, and have lost by an average of 16.4 points per game.

Purnell and Krzyzewski Have Common Bond:
Clemson coach Oliver Purnell and Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski both have experience in international basketball, specifically with the US Olympic team. Coach K is the current head coach of the Men's National Team, while Purnell served as an assistant under Larry Brown in the 2004 Olympics along with North Carolina head coach Roy Williams.

Getting Defensive:
Clemson leads the ACC in steals with 10.75 per game. That is close to the pace set by the 2005-06 Clemson team, which led the ACC in that category and ranked second in the nation with a school record 11.0 per game. With tremendous on the ball pressure led by an experienced backcourt, the Blue Devils will have their stiffest test since Virginia Tech in terms of taking care of the basketball.

The leader of this attack is senior Vernon Hamilton, who had six steals against North Carolina on January 17, tying his career high. It also tied the Clemson single game high under Oliver Purnell and was just one steal off the school record. Hamilton now has 42 steals on the year and 243 for his Clemson career (11th on the all-time ACC list). Interestingly enough he has only committed 27 fouls on the season against those 42 steals.

Birds of A Feather?:
Much has been made of Duke's Josh McRoberts' ability to impact the game without scoring huge amounts of points. The 6'10 sophomore currently leads Duke in both rebounds and assists. However, Clemson's James Mays also leads his team in an usual category - steals, in addition to rebounds. Mays ranks eighth in the ACC in rebounds and is fourth in steals, the only ACC player in the top 10 in both areas entering this week's play. McRoberts ranks fifth in the ACC in rebounding and is ninth in assists on per game (4.11) basis.

Rivers Trying To Rebound:
Sophomore wing player K.C. Rivers had been on a hot streak of late, hitting 8-9 three-pointers in two games Jan. 9-13. He was limited against North Carolina due to a back problem suffered in the first half against Maryland. He has now made just 1-9 from long range since suffering the back injury, but he is still shooting 42.4 percent from three point range for the year and 47 percent in ACC games (14-27). For the season, Rivers has made 53-125 three-point shots for a .424 percentage.

Prediction:

Duke 72
Clemson 63


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