Three points: Winning the battle on the glass, bench production key for Duke men's basketball against Clemson

Freshman guard Caleb Foster shoots a 3-pointer against Pittsburgh.
Freshman guard Caleb Foster shoots a 3-pointer against Pittsburgh.

After a bounce-back win against Louisville, Duke men’s basketball will face a Clemson team that is looking to turn around a less-than-ideal start in ACC play. The Blue Zone brings you three keys to a Blue Devil victory:

Protecting the paint

Clemson’s offense relies heavily on the inside scoring ability of senior forward PJ Hall. The Tigers are 7-2 this season when the Spartanburg, S.C., native scores more than 20 points, with most of those points coming off of offensive rebounds and in the post.

On the other hand, the Blue Devils’ frontcourt is not as deep as it was last year, having lost star center Dereck Lively II to the NBA. Duke’s rebounding margin is currently at 4.2 through 18 games, considerably down from 7.9 over the 2022-23 season. The Blue Devils will need to rebound as a team to keep Hall off of the offensive glass and stop him from operating where he works best.

But in order to protect the paint, Duke will need its big man, star center Kyle Filipowski, to stay out of foul trouble. The potential matchup between Filipowski and Hall could put the sophomore in a position to pick up early fouls. To counter, the Blue Devils will need to play connected, team defense.

Bench Scoring

The loss to Pittsburgh Saturday in Cameron Indoor Stadium is still fresh on the minds of the Duke faithful. Without starters Jeremy Roach and Mark Mitchell, who have been relatively steady scorers all season, the Blue Devils needed production from their subs. But that didn’t happen against the Panthers, as Duke only got eight points from its bench.

Mitchell has since returned to the lineup arguably better than ever, dropping two double-doubles in his last three games played, but Roach was reinjured during the first half of the Blue Devils’ win at Louisville Tuesday. The senior guard has been a controlling factor for the Duke offense, and the team will undoubtedly miss its second-leading scorer if he is unable to play.

If Roach does not play Saturday against Clemson, the Blue Devils will need to get offensive production from freshmen Caleb Foster and TJ Power. Foster has shown the ability to be an effective scorer, with 18 points early in the season against Michigan State and a solid offensive performance against Pittsburgh in the loss. Duke will need his production in order to spread the Tigers’ defense. 

Power is yet to have a breakout performance in a Blue Devil uniform. However, if the Shrewsbury, Mass., sharpshooter finds his shot early, he can become an immediate scoring threat off of the bench and help Duke spread the floor.

Proctor staying aggressive

Sophomore guard Tyrese Proctor had a career-high 24 points at the KFC Yum! Center Tuesday. This was only the second game of the season that Proctor scored more than 20 points, with the other coming in a late-November win against La Salle. Coming into this season, the young captain was heralded as a potential All-American lottery pick, as he established during the later parts of his freshman campaign that he was capable of facilitating an offense. 

An ankle injury in December against Georgia Tech slowed down Proctor’s sophomore campaign, but his big game against the Cardinals could be a step in the right direction for the NBA Global Academy product.

In the win against Louisville, Proctor took 16 shots, the most he has in any game this season. During the first half, the Sydney native was getting downhill off of ball screens, allowing him to create for his teammates or score himself. 

Proctor attacking off of screens worked against the Cardinals, and doing so against Clemson could open up many opportunities for the Blue Devils on offense, particularly with Filipowski in the mix through the pick and roll.


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