In its ACC opener, Duke will be matched up with a solid Clemson squad as it tries to improve its record to 12-1 on the season. This could be particularly challenging coming off a two-week break. The Blue Zone takes a look at one key player on each team for Saturday evening's contest:

Duke: Forward Javin DeLaurier

With Clemson guard Marcquise Reed coming back from a knee injury and scoring 20 and 26 in his first two games back, Duke will need to protect the rim in a game that will likely look much different from the last time these two teams met.

 In their matchup against the Tigers last year, the Blue Devils took a 66-57 victory, relying on 19 points from Grayson Allen and 10 rebounds from Wendell Carter. DeLaurier actually started in that game, scoring just two points in 30 minutes. This year, as his role on the team is developing, he will look to continue his upward trends in both efficiency and minutes. Against a more experienced Clemson team, DeLaurier will be pivotal to the young Duke squad.

Shooting 86.2 percent from the field this year, the junior has not missed a single field goal in his last four games. Against Texas Tech, he played 27 minutes, as head coach Mike Krzyzewski elected to start him again in place of Marques Bolden. While Bolden is slightly larger than DeLaurier and may be favored against teams with size, Duke matches up well against Clemson’s big men, so DeLaurier should start and see significant playing time. His 10 blocks in the last four games are also a positive sign, and he has been shooting well from the free-throw line recently.

Clemson: Forward Elijah Thomas

For the Tigers, senior forward Elijah Thomas will look to build on some of his strong recent performances, as he goes for his eleventh straight game in double figures. In their most recent game against Lipscomb, the forward put on a strong defensive showing, totaling four blocks, despite struggling from the field and shooting 3-for-10. While the majority of Clemson’s scoring comes from their guards, specifically Reed and Shelton Mitchell, both of whom are also seniors, they are relatively well balanced with four players averaging double figures.

Although he has attempted only one three this year, Thomas has had a strong presence on the boards, and will likely find himself in the middle of some tough battles down low with DeLaurier, along with Duke’s freshmen big men Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish. Thomas notched 13 points in 29 minutes last year against Duke, but he was notably strong on the glass with 15 rebounds, seven on the offensive side. 

As one of four seniors to start for Clemson this year, Thomas will try to exploit the young Blue Devils in a difficult matchup, as the Tigers open up their conference schedule against a top-ranked Duke team.