No. 18 Duke faces quick turnaround vs. Clemson

DURHAM, N.C. — Duke has shown that its sudden improvement was enough to take down its chief rival.

Now the No. 18 Blue Devils have to refocus in a hurry for Saturday afternoon’s game against visiting Clemson at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Duke is coming off Thursday night’s 86-78 victory against No. 8 North Carolina, knocking the Tar Heels off their perch alone atop the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“We’ll show the maturity of our team by how we respond (with) the quick turnaround,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We have to see if we can handle that. … Clemson will come in here very hungry.”

Duke (19-5, 7-4 ACC) has won four games in a row, so once again the Blue Devils are raising expectations. They began as the top-ranked team in the country in the preseason.

It was comforting to Krzyzewski to see how the Blue Devils rose to the occasion down the stretch against North Carolina, but it can take a toll.

“Just the fact that we played well against a very, very good team,” Krzyzewski said. “Both these teams played so well. It takes a lot out of you.”

Junior guard Grayson Allen matched his career high for 3-point baskets with seven in the North Carolina game. He finished with 25 points before fouling out.

“That’s why our team is so great,” freshman forward Jayson Tatum said. “When guys are in foul trouble or out, we have other guys that can step up.”

Duke is averaging 82.7 points per game, led by sophomore guard Luke Kennard’s 19.8 points (for the third-best mark in the ACC). Clemson has allowed at least 82 points in its last four losses.

Yet there’s still hope for Clemson (13-10, 3-8), which will play only one other current nationally ranked team during the regular season after facing Duke.

“I think we’re a pretty good team and we’re struggling a little bit right now,” Tigers coach Brad Brownell said.

Clemson has won two of six ACC road outings, but the ledger also includes a 32-point loss at Louisville and a 48-point setback at Florida State within the past month.

The game against Florida State came last weekend and added to concerns about the Tigers’ road approach.

“We didn’t show up once we got hit in the mouth,” Brownell said. “I just don’t think we’ve been a team that has handled that very well.”

Clemson is just a few of plays away from being on the border of the upper part of the ACC standings. The Tigers suffered an overtime setback to North Carolina and a pair of 82-81 defeats, including Tuesday night’s tough-to-swallow, buzzer-beating loss to Syracuse.

“There has been some adversity and there hasn’t been a collective mental toughness,” Brownell said.

Brownell said the Tigers have a tendency to break off from the game plan, particularly on offense, when things start to go awry.

That might be reflected in the Tigers ranking second-to-last in the ACC in field-goal percentage (45.3) and 3-point percentage (35.7) despite having forward Jaron Blossomgame as the eighth-leading scorer in the conference at 17.8 per game. Blossomgame is shooting 52.2 percent from the field.

Clemson won last season’s lone meeting with the Blue Devils, but the Tigers haven’t won at Duke since 1995.