X-Factor: Foster's all-around capabilities crucial for Duke men's basketball against Clemson

Freshman guard Caleb Foster had 16 points and five assists against Pittsburgh Jan. 20.
Freshman guard Caleb Foster had 16 points and five assists against Pittsburgh Jan. 20.

Following a road victory against Louisville, No. 12 Duke looks to reestablish momentum at home against Clemson. Prior to tip off Saturday afternoon, the Blue Zone breaks down a key player from each squad:

Duke: Caleb Foster

The Blue Devils may not have played the most consistent basketball through the past 12 weeks, yet one player in particular appears to be rapidly improving — freshman guard Caleb Foster. As Duke’s Swiss Army knife, Foster has assumed multiple roles for the team as of late. In the team’s Jan. 9 win against Pittsburgh, the Harrisburg, N.C., native dished out a season-high seven assists. During the ill-fated rematch against the Panthers Jan. 20, Foster did a little bit of everything, garnering 16 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. 

Foster’s impact, however, is not always immediately apparent. Against Louisville Tuesday, he only attempted two shots and had zero points in 27 minutes of play but dished out a pair of assists. One could argue his presence as a facilitator is more important to the Blue Devils than any box score statistic. With sophomore guard Tyrese Proctor and senior guard Jeremy Roach both having missed time during the season, Foster has been a stable force at the one for much of the year.

His all-around abilities will prove especially important with Roach either sidelined or limited for Saturday’s contest against Clemson. When Duke lost to the Tigers last season, poor 3-point shooting, bad facilitating and the lack of Roach due to injury proved fatal. In order for the Blue Devils to emerge victorious, Foster will need to meet the moment as an offensive weapon.

Clemson: PJ Hall

Through 18 games, PJ Hall has performed as well as any player in the ACC — or Division I basketball, for that matter. The senior forward averages 19.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game on 52.0% shooting from the floor. Hall’s scoring has proven valuable for the Tigers. In a close double-overtime loss to Georgia Tech Jan. 16, Hall scored 31 points while garnering 17 boards, both career highs. Hall is not exactly a knockdown shooter — he makes around a third of his 3-point attempts — but his willingness to take shots from outside the arc will nonetheless require attention from Duke on defense.

Clemson has gotten out to a slow start in conference play, going 2-4 in its last six games against ACC opponents. Hall’s numbers against the league are still good — 18.6 points and 8.6 rebounds a night — but his shooting ability from outside the arc makes him the Tigers' X-factor. The Blue Devils have shown vulnerability against outside shooters, most recently allowing Pittsburgh forward Blake Hinson to go 7-of-7 from outside the arc. Should Duke’s perimeter defense have another poor showing, Hall could prove the key to a Clemson victory with his versatile scoring package.


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