Chelsea Gray and the Duke backcourt will have a tough matchup against Clemson guard Nikki Dixon.
Chelsea Gray and the Duke backcourt will have a tough matchup against Clemson guard Nikki Dixon.

It’s been more than a decade since No. 3 Duke lost to Clemson, but don’t think head coach Joanne P. McCallie and the Blue Devils are taking tonight’s 7 p.m. game at Cameron Indoor Stadium lightly.

“That would only show great immaturity,” McCallie said. “We respect every opponent. We prepare for people’s very best, and we want to play our very best.”

Sophomore guard Nikki Dixon helps earn that respect for the Tiger (4-10, 0-3 in the ACC) offense. The Georgia native is a potent scorer averaging 14.5 points per game along with 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 steals. Look for the Blue Devils (13-0, 3-0) to maintain tight coverage tonight on No. 21.

“[Dixon is] a tough, aggressive guard—very quick and athletic—and we’ve got to limit her touches,” McCallie said. “We have to really defend her with a great stance, because she can penetrate so well. And she can shoot the 3-ball when she’s open, so she’s a complete player. It’s a team effort—it’s not just one person because matchups change according to transition but she’s very good.”

Although Dixon is Clemson’s only player averaging double figures, Quinyotta Pettaway also has the potential to be an impact player for the Tigers, particularly on the boards. Pettaway, a 6-foot-3 junior, is a legitimate double-double threat on any night. The forward will enter tonight’s game averaging 9.8 points on the season and a league-best 14.3 rebounds per game in ACC play. Clemson will need big time performances from both Dixon and Pettaway if they are to have a chance in tonight’s contest.

Duke’s offense, by contrast, has been remarkably multi-dimensional. In conference play, four Blue Devils have averaged 10 or more points per game.

As a team, Duke is averaging 17.7 assists per game and shooting 49.7 percent from the field against ACC opponents. Haley Peters and Elizabeth Williams are superb complements in the frontcourt, sharpshooter Tricia Liston helps spread the floor, but no one has been more impressive than Chelsea Gray. The dynamic point guard from California is averaging 17.0 points per game in Duke’s three conference tilts, but McCallie and her teammates know she is more than just a scorer.

“[Chelsea is] one of the best rebounding guards in the country,” McCallie said. “She’s got the ability to play the complete game.”

Gray demonstrated that ability last Sunday against Boston College, where she posted her second career triple-double with 18 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Off the stat line, Gray also drew three charges for the Blue Devils. Clemson will have a hard time matching up on either side of the floor tonight. Nevertheless, the matchup will provide a great opportunity for the Blue Devils to polish their rebounding and defensive intensity. While there is always room for improvement, McCallie acknowledged excitement with the team’s performance to date.

“We’re excited. We’re growing. We’re getting better,” McCalle said. “We’re kind of a work in progress, but we’re definitely heading in the right direction.”