This particular preview will be abridged as @randydunson is under the weather but still was cool enough to give us his endgame portion, so thanks Randy and get well soon!
This will become cliché this year, but every game will be tough in the ACC. As for this matchup, Duke has always had problems on Clemson’s home court. No longer the infamous Littlejohn Coliseum, but nonetheless Clemson’s home turf.
Amile Jefferson’s injury crippled Duke’s depth and put the onus on Brandon Ingram and Marshall Plumlee to hold serve in the frontcourt. However, they have answered the call, and the ninth-ranked Blue Devils are rolling because of it.
Extending their winning streak to six Wednesday night could be a difficult task, though, as they visit a Clemson team looking to beat ranked opponents in back-to-back games for the first time in nearly 27 years.
Duke (14-2, 3-0 ACC) has won six of seven without him, though, despite only six players playing at least 10 minutes in five of those games. Ingram is averaging 20.7 points and 36.1 minutes over the last 9 games after averaging 10.9 points and 24.6 minutes in his first seven.
The 6-foot-9 freshman has helped make up for the loss of Jefferson in other ways, too, blocking four shots in last Wednesday’s win at Wake Forest before swatting six in Saturday’s 82-58 rout of Virginia Tech. Ingram and Plumlee have each averaged 8.3 rebounds with Jefferson sidelined.
Plumlee has had back-to-back career games, finishing with 18 points against Wake and 21 with 10 boards Saturday. The senior 7-footer had two double-digit scoring performances in his first 14. He has played more than 30 minutes in four straight games after doing so once through the first 12.
Guards Grayson Allen (16 points), Matt Jones (13), and Luke Kennard (11) also had solid games against the Hokies and have contributed to Duke winning by an average of 23.6 points during its streak.
Duke beat the Tigers 78-56 in last season’s only meeting, but the Blue Devils lost their last trip to Clemson 72-59 on January 11, 2014, when Jaron Blossomgame finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds.
Blossomgame again helped the Tigers (10-6, 3-1) pull off an upset Sunday, scoring a game-high 17 points in a 66-62 win over then-No. 16 Louisville. Avry Holmes added 16 for Clemson, which has not beaten ranked foes in consecutive games since March 1 and 4, 1989.
The Tigers have won three straight following a three-game skid and were able to beat the Cardinals despite shooting 32.6 percent from the field.
This will be the second of five consecutive games against ranked opponents for Clemson, with No. 8 Miami on Saturday, No. 13 Virginia on January 19 and No. 20 Pittsburgh on January 27 also looming.
The good news? Only the Virginia game is on the road!
These teams are Nos. 1 and 2 in the ACC in blocks per game, with Duke averaging 5.88 and Clemson 5.75.
Overall, it hasn’t been the typical Blue Devils dominance that we’re used to seeing so far this season, but No. 9 Duke is still playing good basketball right now with a 14-2 overall record and a 3-0 start to ACC play. Duke enters this matchup riding a five-game winning streak since its last loss to Utah nearly a month ago.
Clemson will certainly have a lot on its plate as it welcomes Mike Krzyzewski and his squad. The Tigers are 10-6 overall and 3-1 in conference play. After dropping three games in a row towards the end of December, Clemson started the new year off right with three straight wins, including a surprising 66-62 victory over Louisville its last time out.
For Duke to win this game, Marshall Plumlee has been hot and cold this season, but his 21 points and 10 rebounds against Virginia Tech were encouraging. Will he reach double figures for a third straight game? Even if he does not, he will contribute big time on the boards. Brandon Ingram will carry the scoring load while Grayson Allen pours in double figures, too. Matt Jones will space the floor with the three-point threat, and Derryck Thornton will stack up a handful of assists.
For Clemson to come away with a victory, Jaron Blossomgame needs to find his shots early and settle into a rhythm. He is Clemson’s biggest scoring threat, and he will need to balance out his attack by knocking down the long ball and attacking the rim, thus drawing fouls and getting to the line. Jordan Roper and Avry Holmes have to be secondary scorers in this one. The trio went 23-of-31 from the charity stripe against Louisville, and if they can get Duke into foul trouble and pick up free points in the process, they will put the Tigers in a good position to win.
In the end, Blossomgame is going to let everyone know that he means business by getting into double figures by the end of the first half. He will also pull down some rebounds, but he will not get much help in that battle. Allen and Ingram will get whatever they want on the offensive end, and Thornton’s athleticism will play a huge factor in getting up and down the floor on Clemson and finding his teammates for easy looks.
- Duke, which has won seven of the past eight meetings and holds a commanding 106-30 lead in the all-time series, can join Kentucky as the only schools with 200 wins this decade Wednesday
- Clemson hasn’t defeated ranked opponents in consecutive games since March 1-4, 1989
- The Blue Devils are 18-0 when leading scorer Grayson Allen finishes with at least 10 points. The sophomore guard has reached that threshold in 14 of 16 games this season and ranks second in the ACC in scoring (20.5).
I see this game being close out of the blocks with Duke eking out an 81-73 victory.