Before Duke takes the floor at Clemson Thursday, the Blue Zone brings you back a few weeks to the first time the two teams played and previews the upcoming rematch.
Second half persistence
The Blue Devil faithful may remember what happened the last time Duke and the Tigers crossed paths. Finishing the first half in a 36-36 draw, the Blue Devils needed an X-factor to pull through and hold the lead for good after a night with 17 lead changes. The quartet of Paolo Banchero, Wendell Moore Jr., Mark Williams and Jeremy Roach all provided that, assisting on each other's baskets and playing a persistent game to hand Clemson a loss. That all helped Duke succeed in the end, as the Tigers maintained their level of rigor to the point the Blue Devils held a slim two-point lead as the buzzer sounded.
Paolo Banchero, the closer
Banchero was the clear leader that Duke needed to finish against Clemson the first time around, as the 6-foot-10 forward was the highest-scoring player on the court with his 19 points in 29 minutes. Banchero was efficient, going 8-of-15 from the field and by adding four assists and seven rebounds. With the Tigers pulling within a score with nearly thirty seconds to go, the Blue Devils needed the Seattle native to close the contest off. He did that by converting a tough layup with just over 10 seconds remaining to give Duke the two-possession lead.
PJ Hall registers third double-double
Though there were arguably four big contributing players for Clemson in the first contest, with three players tallying at least 12 points and four players collecting at least seven rebounds, there was one player who was clearly on top for the Tigers—and that was Hall. The 6-foot-10 sophomore gave Duke everything he had, finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds on the day in spite of a poor sub-30% shooting night. Hall has contributed more since then, with respective 15- and 18-point performances against Florida State and Georgia Tech.
Blue Devils aren’t invincible
Taking their fourth loss this season to end a five-game win streak, it’s beyond evident that the No. 7 Blue Devils are not invincible. Despite etching a major 20-point win in the Tobacco Road rivalry against North Carolina Saturday, Duke couldn’t capitalize on the win in its next game against Virginia, falling 69-68. Though Duke has four losses next to its name compared to Clemson’s 11, the last battle was only a matter of two points. Coming off the high of beating the Tar Heels and hosting in Cameron Indoor Stadium shouldn’t have been an issue for Duke, but the Cavaliers took care of business. The Tigers will look to make it back-to-back losses for the Blue Devils.
If you haven’t already looked at the schedule, the Blue Devils are playing four games over eight days. And that’s all ACC competition. The conference has a reputation for its toughness and physicality, and will take no prisoners. The Blue Devils need to stay strong in their third game of the week, which is only three days after their loss to Virginia. Duke has shown its vulnerabilities on the road already this season, and Clemson will look to capitalize.
Since Duke played Clemson just over two weeks ago, head coach Brad Brownell's squad has played three games—a 75-69 win against Florida State, 69-64 loss against Georgia Tech and a narrow 79-77 loss to North Carolina. All three teams are programs that the Blue Devils have played against, and while they beat Georgia Tech and North Carolina, Florida State took the win against Duke in Tallahassee, Fla. With Duke overpowering the Tar Heels most recently by 20 points, and Clemson falling short by two, a look at the mutual competition has the game in Duke's favor. Though this year's ACC has shown anything can happen, the Blue Devils still will enter Clemson with the upper hand.
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