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Key Three: Duke basketball vs Clemson



No. 9 Duke will look to win its sixth consecutive game when it travels to play Clemson Wednesday. The Blue Devils are coming off a game in which they jumped out to a big lead in an easy victory against Virginia Tech, while the Tigers enter the contest having won three consecutive conference games. Here are three keys to the game:

Keep it going from long range

The Blue Devils exploded in the opening minutes of their most recent matchup against Virginia Tech—nailing 3-pointers in four of their first five possessions—and finished the first half 8-of-17 from beyond the arc on their way to posting 50 points in the first half. Duke’s quartet of marksmen—Brandon Ingram, Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard and Matt Jones—combined to shoot 45 percent from downtown against the Hokies, and were able to get hot in a hurry to put the game out of reach early.

A similar start would bode well against Clemson, but it will be a difficult task to accomplish. The defensively-minded Tigers hold their opponents to just 62.2 points per game, and limited fellow ACC foe Louisville to just 25 points in the first half. In comparison, the Blue Devils had 25 points after just 7:38 of competition against Virginia Tech. Clemson’s opponents have averaged just 33 percent shooting from long distance this season, so it will be interesting to see what happens when Duke’s sharpshooting collides with the Tigers’ unwavering defense.

Keep Plumlee Involved

The graduate student has been on a tear lately—notching back-to-back career performances against Wake Forest and Virginia Tech—and should continue to be a focal point for the Blue Devil offense in the matchup against the Tigers. Plumlee has a three-inch height advantage against the tallest Clemson starter, making the Warsaw, Ind., native a valuable option in the post.

If the Tigers' impressive perimeter defense hampers the hot shooting of Duke’s guards, a strong performance by Plumlee could be the difference maker. In their most recent game, the Tigers allowed a 7-of-8 shooting performance by the opposing center, showing that Clemson’s defense is susceptible to allow another efficient shooting performance by a big man.

Stay agile on defense

Two of the Tigers’ leading scorers—Jaron Blossomgame and Donte Grantham—are swingmen that can be a threat both in the paint and beyond the arc. The two combine to shoot only 37 percent from deep, but have hoisted 120 triples combined this season, meaning that Duke’s defense will need to be fluid and active in order to prevent the duo’s versatility from becoming an issue.

The Blue Devils have done a good job this season defending from the 3-point line—holding their opponents to 34 percent shooting on the year—and this will need to continue against a Clemson roster with three rotation players shooting better than 35 percent from deep. Much of this burden will lie on Ingram, who can use his length to minimize the long range effectiveness of Clemson’s forwards in hopes that Plumlee will fill in the holes and defend at the rim.


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