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Another quick turnaround: Duke men's basketball gunning for fifth straight win against Clemson

<p>The Blue Devil defense has keyed its four-game winning streak,&nbsp;particularly late in games, and will have to contend with first-team All-ACC forward Jaron Blossomgame Saturday.&nbsp;</p>

The Blue Devil defense has keyed its four-game winning streak, particularly late in games, and will have to contend with first-team All-ACC forward Jaron Blossomgame Saturday. 

Following Thursday's emotional triumph against North Carolina, maturity was the buzzword for the Blue Devils and head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Shortly after its biggest win of the season, a Duke team that has been inconsistent to this point would take the court against another ACC bottom-feeder.

And after letting Pittsburgh hang around a week ago, the Blue Devils will look to take another step in the right direction by convincingly extending their winning streak to five.  

A little more than 36 hours after taking out No. 8 North Carolina 86-78 at Cameron Indoor Stadium, No. 18 Duke will return to its home court at 1 p.m. Saturday to host Clemson as the Blue Devils look to make it 12 straight seasons with a a winning streak of at least five conference games. Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard and Jayson Tatum combined for 64 points against the Tar Heels, and all three have posted double-figure points in each of Duke's last three victories.

The Tigers, on the other hand, have been sliding since earning a win in their ACC opener at Wake Forest. Clemson has lost eight of its last 10 games, including a demoralizing defeat at the buzzer Tuesday when Syracuse guard Tyus Battle drained a corner triple as time expired to give the Orange a one-point victory.

Despite boasting preseason All-ACC selection Jaron Blossomgame, the Tigers do not appear to be the darkhorse threat that some might have expected them to be at the beginning of the season. But even after a season-defining performance Thursday evening, the Blue Devils are not ready to let off the gas pedal.

“Four tough Ws—the will for us to win that Wake Forest game coming down from so many points. To go on the road and beat a great Notre Dame team, we were just in tough, tough situations," Tatum said after Thursday's victory. "Just getting Coach back, guys getting hurt, we’ve fought through so much adversity and we’re building every day to get better and I think it’s making us better."

Blossomgame garnered first team All-ACC honors last season, earning the league's most improved player award, and is Clemson's lone dominant offensive weapon. The redshirt senior averages 17.8 points per game and ranks second in rebounding for the Tigers (13-10, 3-8 in the ACC) at 5.5 boards per contest.

Although Clemson has just one other double-figure scorer outside of Blossomgame, the Tigers utilize an eight-man rotation with every member posting at least 6.3 points a night. Senior Sidy Djitte anchors Clemson in the low post—the 6-foot-10 Senegalese center is collecting nearly eight rebounds per game, good for eighth in the conference.

"Continuity and preparation—we have more of it right now, and hopefully, we’ll get more," Krzyzewski said Thursday. "We’ll show the maturity of our team too by how we respond on Saturday. It’s a quick turnaround. It’s kind of like an NCAA tournament where you play that 10 o’clock game on Thursday night, it’s Friday morning, and then all of a sudden, you’ve got the 12:15 game on Saturday, and we’ve got to see if we can handle that."

The Blue Devils (19-5, 7-4) needed all 40 minutes and a second-half statement from Tatum to grind out a win in the first of two Tobacco Road rivalry matchups this season. 

The freshman forward tallied all 19 of his points in the second half, including a monster jam over North Carolina center Kennedy Meeks.

"My teammates helped me in the second half and in the locker room," Tatum said. "They gave me confidence and the coaches challenged me to be better in the second half. I just came out there and tried to play free and had fun, just playing hard with the guys."

The Tigers, despite not necessarily standing out in some of the more crucial statistical categories, do sit second in the league in turnover margin at +3.5 takeaways per contest. Although Clemson gives the ball away close to 15 times a game, they also average 7.8 steals a night, led by 63 combined thefts from Marcquise Reed and Gabe DeVoe—who are also capable 3-point shooters.

Fortunately for Duke, Allen has recently emerged as a comfortable and competent ball handler. After six giveaways at Louisville last month, the junior guard is averaging 3.0 turnovers per game even with the brunt of the Blue Devils' point guard duties. More importantly, he looks much less hesitant attacking from long range or slicing into the paint to break down defenses. 

And if the Jacksonville, Fla., native can continue to develop as the on-court leader of a dangerous Duke offensive arsenal, the Blue Devils will likely see their recent success continue with just three home games remaining in the regular season and a road test at No. 12 Virginia looming.

"We were able to share the ball, we were able to find the open guy, we were able to knock down big shots," Kennard said. "[We're] more unselfish when we play as a group and when we’re together and play tough, we can be a very dangerous offensive team."

Amrith Ramkumar and Sameer Pandhare contributed reporting.

Mitchell Gladstone | Sports Managing Editor

Twitter: @mpgladstone13

A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak." 


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