Coming off a tight victory against Notre Dame, the Blue Devils are looking to notch their third straight ACC win against Clemson.
The Tigers picked up their second conference win this past Thursday in a 75-67 overtime thriller over Pittsburgh, and the matchup presents a significant opportunity for Duke to build on the budding momentum generated from the last two contests. Despite its sub-.500 record, Clemson presents a stern challenge for Duke’s offensive arsenal, and the Tigers have a penchant for attacking the glass with authority. Here are a couple things to look for during the Blue Devil’s second game in four days.
How can Clemson stave off Duke?
Clemson’s top three scorers are significantly ahead of the rest of the team in that column, as Kobi Thornton, Amari Robinson, and Kendall Spray lead the way offensively. With respective averages of 12.2, 11.2, and 9.9 points per game, each player possesses a unique skillset that will test Duke’s improving defense.
Thornton, a senior forward from Georgia, is a force on the interior with impressive efficiency for the Tigers (6-11, 2-4 in the ACC). Thornton was named to the All-ACC second team last season and she has continued her solid play this year. With a 44.9 percent mark from the field and 6.1 rebounds per contest, Thornton will force the Blue Devils (9-8, 3-3) to play disciplined post defense and rotate in the paint.
Robinson, an extremely talented freshman forward, shoots an even more effective 48 percent from the floor, also posing a threat from outside. Duke must be aware of Robinson’s ability to shoot the 3-pointer on potential pick-and-pops.
Spray, a transfer guard from Tennessee-Martin, can light it up from deep and is in range virtually anywhere on the court. As a high-volume shooter, Spray impacts how aggressive Duke must be in its half-court defense, as giving the redshirt junior an iota of space can result in a barrage of buckets from outside. With each of Clemson’s top three scorers possessing different capabilities, the Blue Devils will need to come out with a clear plan defensively.
Who will win on the glass?
A constant focus for the Blue Devils this season has been establishing a presence on the glass and that will need to be a continued key to victory against a Clemson team that is stout on the interior. With the Tigers racking up 41 rebounds per game, Duke will utilize its guards in order to prevent second-shot opportunities from arising. Duke has prided itself on adjusting its tempo based on the opponent, and that will be predicated on its ability to rebound at a high level. If the Blue Devils are able to rotate effectively and prevent unimpeded cuts to the basket, their ability to rebound will benefit.
With Clemson searching for a last gasp to turn around a lost season up until this point, the Blue Devils need to be wary of a team that may try to throw out the kitchen sink. Duke must key in on the Tigers’ top scorers and rebound at a high level in order to continue its recent hot streak in ACC play. Not taking Clemson’s interior offense lightly will be crucial on Sunday for the Blue Devils.
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