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Game Preview: Duke Blue Devils vs. Clemson Tigers by @randydunson

By February 20, 2015April 20th, 2015No Comments

Game Preview

Duke Blue Devils (23-3, 10-3] vs. Clemson Tigers [15-11, 7-7]

Saturday, February 21, 2015 • 4:10 PM • ESPN • Durham, NC • Cameron Indoor Stadium

By Randy Dunson

1. Snapshot


Duke hosts Clemson Saturday, February 21 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Tipoff is set for 4:10 p.m. with Dave O’Brien and Dick Vitale calling the action for ESPN. The Blue Devils enter the game ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll and No. 5 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Duke is 72-15 when ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll. Clemson is unranked in both polls. Duke, Kansas, and Virginia are the only teams in the NCAA to rank in the top 10 of the AP Poll (No. 4), USA Today Coaches Poll (No. 5), Ratings Percentage Index (No. 5), and Strength of Schedule (No. 7). Duke is 10-2 against teams ranked in the top 50 of the RPI, including a 4-0 mark against teams ranked in the top 10. Clemson enters Saturday’s contest ranked 86th in the RPI.


Clemson is in search of its first win at Duke since the 1994-95 season, a 75-70 victory by Rick Barnes’ first team over a ninth-ranked Blue Devils team at the time. The Tigers defeated a top-20 Duke team in Littlejohn Coliseum last season, their first win over the Blue Devils in five seasons. Three Tigers, Jaron Blossomgame, K.J. McDaniels and Landry Nnoko, posted double-doubles. Clemson had a shot to beat Duke again in the 2014 ACC Tournament and led by one in the final 10 seconds, but two Blue Devil free throws gave Mike Krzyzewski’s team a 63-62 win in the quarterfinals. The Tigers get their third crack at a top-five ACC team this season Saturday, all on the road. Clemson dropped the previous two, at Louisville and Virginia. Clemson has defeated 10 different Blue Devil teams ranked inside the nation’s top 10 at the time of the meeting, including No. 1 Duke in front of the largest crowd in Littlejohn history on January 9, 1980. Austin Ajukwa is coming off a career-high 10 points and three steals in 14 minutes of play at Georgia Tech. Over his past six games, Ajukwa is averaging 5.5 points per contest (after just 1.9 over his first 19 games).

2. Last Time Out


In its last outing, Duke came away with a 92-90 overtime win over No. 15 North Carolina Wednesday at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones combined for 44 points in the win as all five Blue Devil starters scored in double figures. Quinn Cook knocked down a season-high six three-point field goals (6-of-9) and finished with 22 points, four rebounds, and three assists. Tyus Jones also scored 22 points to go along with seven rebounds and eight assists. Jones scored nine points in the final 1:25 of regulation to help force overtime. Jahlil Okafor recorded his 10th double-double of the year with 12 points and 13 rebounds, while Justise Winslow contributed 16 points and seven rebounds. Amile Jefferson added 13 points, five rebounds and a career-high six blocks in the win. Duke shot 50.8 percent (33-of-65) from the field, including 62.5 percent (10-of-16) from three-point range.

Game Notes

  • Duke started 23-3 during the 2012, 2007, 2003, and 2000 seasons (since 1996).
  • The win over North Carolina extended the Duke winning streak to six games.
  • Duke has played in one overtime game this season. Over the last five seasons, the Blue Devils have played in four overtime games with a record of 2-2.
  • The Blue Devils have won five close games this season (a win by five or fewer points). Since 2009, Duke is 31-14 in close games.
  • Prior to this game, Duke played 50 Top 25 opponents in the last five seasons with a record of 34-16.
  • The Blue Devils have won every game this season (5-0) after recording 92 or more total points.
  • Duke has won every game this season (12-0) when its field goal percentage has been 50.8 percent or better.
  • Duke has won every game this season (4-0) after committing 16 or fewer turnovers.
  • Duke has won every game this season (5-0) when opponents record two or fewer three-pointers.
  • Duke has won every game this season (6-0) after holding an opponent to under 20.0 percent three-point percentage.
  • This season Duke has won 88 percent of the time (21-3) when Jahlil Okafor has 12 points or more, 100 percent of the time (6-0) when Justise Winslow has six field goals made or more, and 100 percent of the time (8-0) when Tyus Jones has six free throws made or more.
  • The Blue Devils set season highs for rebounds (46) and three-point percentage (62.5).
  • The last time Duke had a three-point percentage of 62.5 percent or higher was February 21, 2013 against Virginia Tech.
  • The Blue Devils have recorded more free throws made than their opponents for the past five games.
  • This is the 13th game at home this season–Duke has a 22.8 average scoring margin against opponents at home.
  • Quinn Cook recorded a team season high in three-pointers with six.
    • Has led the team in scoring in seven out of 26 games this season.
    • Has three straight double-digit point games.
    • Marks the 11th 20-point game of Quinn Cook’s career.
  • Amile Jefferson tallied a team season high in blocks with six.
  • Jahlil Okafor has led the team in rebounding in 15 out of 26 games this season.
    • Recorded the 10th double-digit rebound game of his career.
    • Has 26 straight double-digit point games.
    • Recorded a double-double. It was the 10th of his career.
  • Tyus Jones has four straight double-digit point games.
    • This marks the fifth 20-point game of Tyus Jones’s career.
  • Justise Winslow has seven straight double-digit point games.
  • The top two scorers (Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones) accounted for 47.8 percent of the points.
  • The top two rebounders (Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones) accounted for 43.4 percent of the rebounds.


In its last outing, A 14-0 run midway through the second half led Georgia Tech to a 63-52 victory Monday over Clemson in McCamish Pavilion. The Tigers shot poorly throughout the contest, hitting just 20 of 55 shots for a 36 percent clip. Clemson, who have out-rebounded five ACC teams by double-digit margins this season, had the tables turned on them with Tech winning the battle of the boards 38-29. Individually, sophomore guard Austin Ajukwa led the Tigers with a career-high 10 points. Junior center Landry Nnoko put up eight points and five rebounds and sophomore forward Jaron Blossomgame had 10 points and added seven rebounds for the Tigers. Clemson was also plagued by turnovers throughout the game, committing 14 for the night.

Game Notes

  • Clemson started 15-11 during the 2005, 2002, 1998, and 1997 seasons (since 1996).
  • Clemson has lost 100 percent of the time this season (0-6) after recording 52 or fewer total points.
  • The Tigers have lost 78 percent of the time this season (2-7) after having a field goal percentage of 36.4 percent or worse.
  • When the opposition shoots a field goal percentage of 46.3 percent or better this season, Clemson has lost 100 percent of the time (0-3).
  • When the opposition records 25 or more field goals made this season, Clemson has lost 83 percent of the time (1-5).
  • When the opposition records 15 or more assists this season, Clemson has lost 83 percent of the time (1-5).
  • The Tigers set a season high for steals (9).
  • Clemson set a season low for rebounds (29).
  • The top two rebounders (Jaron Blossomgame and Landry Nnoko) accounted for 41.3 percent of the rebounds.
  • Jaron Blossomgame has led the team in scoring 12 times and in rebounding 15 times in 26 games this season.
    • Has three straight double-digit point games.
  • This was the first foul out of the season for Austin Ajukwa.

3. Head-to-Head

Duke leads the overall WL record 105-30. The Blue Devils won the most recent meeting

In terms of a few key offensive and defensive statistical parameters, Duke has the edge in all of the categories, which give the Blue Devils a solid statistical edge head-to-head.


Duke 2014-15 Regular Season Key Stats Comparison Clemson
                     80.7 (+15.7) PPG (Scoring Margin) 67.2 (+1.8)
65.9 Opponents PPG 60.1
56.3 Effective FG% 463
49.7 FG% 41.0
43.0 Opponent FG% 49.2
38.8 3PT FG% 30.2
31.9 Opponent 3PT FG% 32.1
38.2 (+6.9) RPG (Rebound Margin) 36.6 (+2.8)
31.6 Opponent RPG 34.0
15.5 APG 10.5
7.0 SPG 5.3
11.3 (+1.5) Turnovers Per Game (Margin) 11.7 (-.9)
12.3 Opponent TOPG 11.0
3.8 BPG 4.6

4. Four Factors to Winning

[If you wish to learn more about how the four factors are calculated and implemented, a description can always be found here, https://www.dukeblogger.com/four-factors-winning/.]

 Duke-Clemson 4Fs

Duke has the edge over Clemson in all factors. As to offensive rebounding, Duke’s edge is 37.2% vs. 33.9%. When it comes to getting to the free throw line, Duke’s edge is 43.1% vs. 35.1%. Duke is shooting the ball more efficiently (eFG%) at 56.3% vs. 48.3% and handling the ball better (16.8% vs. 18.7%).

5. Key Points to Consider

First, a few points regarding both team’s overall profile at this point:


  • Two main scorers (Cook/Okafor); Jones/Winslow close behind
  • Makes the most of its possessions
  • Doesn’t send teams to the line often
  • Highly efficient attack


  • Methodical on offense
  • Stingy defense
  • Commits few fouls

Now, a few key points to consider. These may often carry over to future games but keys specific to a current opponent will always be mentioned.

  • Will Okafor Play?
    • It all depends on the specific location and severity of the sprain.
    • For this game, I believe he could play limited minutes or possibly sit out.
    • If the latter, Amile and Marshall will need to step up and the guard play will need to be stellar.
  • Free Throw Shooting
    • Regardless of the game, shooting 52% from the line typically does not win ball games
    • Duke must find a way to improve their efficiency as the season trickles to an end
  • Finish Strong
    • [Reiteration] I will continue to posit this until the day I die in Coach K’s use of motion stall (my terminology) with multiple minutes left with & single digit leads is DOWNRIGHT DANGEROUS (almost cost us the Syracuse game among others)
    • The Devils proved that they have the tenacity to play tough and strong in end of game situations in the UNC game but now is the time to ensure consistency going forward

6. Endgame

Fourth-ranked Duke expects to have freshman star Jahlil Okafor on the floor when it hosts Clemson in ACC play on Saturday. Okafor sprained his left ankle during Wednesday’s overtime victory over North Carolina and will be monitored up until game time.

“We’ll see what happens – sometimes you can play the night of the game because of the adrenaline and everything’s moving,” Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters. “We’ll see if he’s going to be ready for Saturday.”

Okafor, averaging team highs of 17.9 points and 9.4 rebounds, has joined Tyler Hansbrough and Stephon Marbury as the only freshmen in ACC history with 26 straight double-figure scoring games. If he plays, he’ll face a solid Clemson defense in his bid to eclipse that mark. The Tigers are second in the ACC to Virginia in opponents’ field-goal percentage (39.0) and points allowed per game (58.8) in conference action. He had 12 points and 13 rebounds for his 10th double-double during Duke’s 92-90 win over the Tar Heels, but it was guard Tyus Jones with 22 points who fueled the way for the Blue Devils’ sixth straight victory.

“Sometimes (Jones) would rather have someone else do it, but when he took the wheel, the car finished in first place,” Krzyzewski told reporters. “He was tremendous.”

Clemson has lost three of their last four games, including a 63-52 loss to Georgia Tech on Monday. The Tigers lack firepower, and the team-based approach can be a challenge against some of the powerful teams in the ACC. Of course, Georgia Tech is one of the bottom feeders, and Clemson only scored 52 points against the Yellow Jackets with no individual scoring more than 10.

Forward Jaron Blossomgame leads the Tigers in scoring (12.9) and rebounding (8.1) while forward Donte Grantham (9.1 points) and center Landry Nnoko (7.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, and team-best 47 blocked shots) are solid contributors.

Tyus Jones raised his scoring average to 11.7 points after matching his season-best output, and he trails Okafor (17.9 points, 9.4 rebounds) and backcourt mate Quinn Cook (15.1 points). Cook connected on six 3-pointers against the Tar Heels and has made at least one in 36 consecutive games, one shy of the school mark held by Trajan Langdon (37 in 1995-96). Forward Justise Winslow has scored in double digits in seven straight games to raise his season average to 11.5.

In conclusion, Clemson does not shoot or score consistently, Landry Nnoko is prone to getting into foul trouble, Rod Hall is hurt, Damarcus Harrison is the only guard who is a fairly consistent 3-point shooter, Jordan Roper is too short, and Sidy Djitte has no hands. One of the few bright spots is the play of Austin Ajukwa lately.

Therefore, the aforementioned negatives inexplicably lead to the fact that Clemson will have to put forward its best performance of the season, who in reality will need that and maybe more to pull off a monumental victory in Durham. When all is said and done, Duke wins by 12.

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