Duke (15-3) vs Clemson (15-4)
Clemson, S.C. - Littlejohn Coliseum
TV: ESPN / Tip: 9:05 PM EST
Program Vitals Conference: ACC Nickname: Tigers Colors: Orange, Purple, White Head Coach: Oliver Purnell (7th season) Career Record at Clemson: 133-82
Projected Starters: 2 Demontez Stitt (6-2, 175, Jr.) – 11.2 ppg, 3.2 apg 5 Tanner Smith (6-5, 220, So.) – 10.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg 45 Jerai Grant (6-8, 220, Jr.) – 6.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg 15 David Potter (6-6, 215, Sr.) – 6.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg 35 Trevor Booker (6-7, 240, Sr.) - 15.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg Key Reserves: 31 Devin Booker (6-8, 235, Fr.) – 4.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg 1 Noel Johnson (6-6, 190, Fr.) – 5.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg 24 Milton Jennings (6-9, 225, So.) – 3.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg
Story Lines For Clemson:
How They Got Here:
The Tigers were dropped by 21 in Durham, but since that time have beaten Boston College by 16, North Carolina by 19 won at NC State by three, and lost at Georgia Tech by two. All in all the Tigers' game against Duke will be the fourth game against a ranked opponent in the first six games of the ACC season.
Meanwhile Duke suffered its third loss in three road games on Wednesday night in Raleigh. In that game the Blue Devils' top three players once again struggled from the floor, while the Wolfpack were dictating every aspect of the game thanks to a number of open looks and easy conversions.
After winning 22 straight contests against the Tigers, the Blue Devils lost two straight including last year's 27 point humiliation at Littlejon. In that game Duke entered the game as the nation's No. 3 team while Clemson was ranked 10th. The trend was reversed on January 3rd as Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith, and Kyle Singler combined for 60 points to help the Blue Devils jump out to a huge early lead and a 30-12 halftime advantage.
This will be the 27th straight game the Blue Devils will be ranked in the top 25 entering a game with the Tigers. In 26 of these contests Duke has been ranked in the top 10.
Both teams enter the game relatively healthy. Duke junior Kyle Singler wore a brace on his right wrist against NC State after sustaining an injury against Wake Forest.
Huge Problems On the Road
Three times the Blue Devils have left the confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium to hit the road and play on an opponent's home court. Three times the opposing fan base has stormed the court after watching their team defeat Duke. First it was Wisconsin in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge. Next came Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Both losses were understandable given Wisconsin's home record under Bo Ryan and Georgia Tech's overall talent level - especially on the front line. In both of those contests Duke was in the game until the final few possessions. However, on Wednesday in Raleigh Duke was thoroughly dominated by an unranked opponent. The Wolfpack grabbed control midway through the first half and didn't relinquish it throughout the remainder of the game on the way to an easy victory.
In order to reverse the apparent demons that appear to haunt Duke in true road games in 2010, the Blue Devils will also need to exercise the ghosts of last year's debacle in Littlejohn that saw the Tigers roll to a 74-47 win. In that game the Tigers limited Duke to just 31 percent shooting from the field and 23 percent from the perimeter while out-rebounding Duke 41-30 and forcing 16 Blue Devil turnovers - 12 of them steals.
Common Ties of Red, White, & Blue:
Clemson coach Oliver Purnell and Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski both have experience in international basketball, specifically with the US Olympic team. Krzyzewski served as the head coach of the 2008 United States Olympic team that won the Gold Medal. He was an assistant coach for the 1992 team, the squad referred to as the "Dream Team". He also served as the head coach of the US team at the 1990 World Champion- ships and the Goodwill Games. He was the 1987 US team for the World University Games.
Purnell served as an assistant coach under Larry Brown and with Roy Williams on the 2004 United States Olympic team. He was also the head coach of the US team in the 1999 World University Games, a squad that had an 8-0 record and won the Gold Medal. Overall, Purnell served as an assistant coach or head coach on seven different USA Basketball teams and
Booker Has Been A Handful For Devils:
Trevor Booker has seen Duke just six times as an opponent. In those half-dozen games he's averaged 14.0 points and 6.2 rebounds. He has made 35-of-60 shots from the field for a .583 percentage. That includes 21-32 made field goals in the last three games he has played against Duke. In the first meeting Booker was kept in check for the most part - finishing with 11 points, and five rebounds in 36 minutes. Booker will look to get back to business against Duke on his home court where he scored 21 points on 8-of-10 field goal shooting the last time Duke came to Clemson.
Duke Will Beat Clemson If...
They can hold the Tigers to less than 40 percent shooting from the field. On the season the Tigers are 15-0 when shooting 40 percent or better from the field. However they are 0-4 when shooting less than that. The Tigers hit 34 percent against Texas A&M; 39 percent against Illinois; 33 percent against Duke; and 37 percent against Georgia Tech - all losses. In each of those four losses the Tigers have stumbled out of the gate in a big way shooting a combined 27.5 percent from the field in those opening halves. That includes a 17 percent clip against Duke in the opening 20 minutes earlier this month.
The Blue Devils will also need to limit Clemson's perimeter attack. The Tigers are 11-2 when shooting a better percentage from the perimeter than their opponents. On top of that the Tigers have posted a 13-1 record when committing fewer turnovers than their opponent.
Finally, the Tigers haven't lost any of the games where they control the painted area either. 14 times Clemson has out-scored the opponents in the paint. Every game resulting in a victory.
If there will be a defining moment for this season, Saturday night's game may very well be it. Duke has struggled on the road this season. Panic may not be setting in, but a loss to Clemson would certainly make it hard for the Blue Devils to reach their preseason expectations of finishing at the top of the conference standings. A major issue in Durham isn't the loss to NC State. Conference losses happen. The issues come from the way in which Duke fell to the Wolfpack. The Blue Devils appeared to be sluggish, indifferent, and almost non-responsive against a clearly motivated opponent. Things will only get worse at Littlejohn where the crowd will be fired up and looking to repeat last year's performance. If the Blue Devils are going to have a chance to win they must find a way to get both Scheyer and Singler out of their respective offensive slumps. If he's known for one thing, head coach Mike Krzyzewski is known for getting his teams ready to play. Duke will need to match Clemson's energy and put together another quick start in hopes of taking the crowd out of the equation. If the team comes out and starts strong, they will be in a position to rebound and right the ship. Otherwise, it's going to be a long night.