Clemson-Duke Preview

Clemson-Duke Preview

Published Feb. 20, 2015 3:59 p.m. ET

After an emotional comeback win over its biggest rival, Duke's chances at finishing the regular season atop the ACC could hinge on its next four games.

And the fourth-ranked Blue Devils may have to play the first without Jahlil Okafor.

Duke begins its crucial closing stretch Saturday against a Clemson program that hasn't won at Cameron Indoor Stadium in just over 20 years.

The Blue Devils (23-3, 10-3) wasted an early 13-point lead and trailed by 10 with less than four minutes left in regulation before rallying to beat No. 15 North Carolina 92-90 in overtime Wednesday night. The win helped them keep pace with second-place Notre Dame (11-3) and league-leading Virginia (12-1).


It was the third time since 2011 that the Tar Heels led by double figures at Cameron but left with a loss. The Blue Devils also came back from a 10-point hole to beat St. John's last month and rallied from 11 down to hand the No. 2 Cavaliers their only loss.

"When you have done it," coach Mike Krzyzewski said of the comebacks, "you feel like you might do it again."

The victory offered a scare when freshman standout Okafor sprained his left ankle late in the first half. He was taped up at halftime and returned to play the entire second half plus overtime while finishing with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

Although Krzyzewski said that he thought Okafor would play Saturday, reports surfaced Friday saying the center was in a walking boot and will be re-evaluated before tipoff.

Okafor, averaging team highs of 17.9 points and 9.4 rebounds, has joined Tyler Hansbrough and Stephon Marbury as the only freshmen in ACC history with 26 straight double-figure scoring games. If he plays, he'll face a solid Clemson defense in his bid to eclipse that mark. The Tigers are second in the ACC to Virginia in opponents' field-goal percentage (39.0) and points allowed per game (58.8) in conference action.

Clemson (15-11, 7-7) does have its work cut out against a Duke squad that is second in the conference with 76.8 points per game and is shooting 47.0 percent in league play. The Blue Devils lead the ACC with a 39.7 percentage from 3-point range.

With a little help, Duke can make up ground by winning these upcoming matchups against Clemson, Virginia Tech, Syracuse and Wake Forest. The Hokies are the only road opponent in that span for the Blue Devils, who close the regular season March 7 at North Carolina.

Playing three of its next four at home should be a big help to Duke, which has beaten the Tigers in 15 straight meetings at its raucous on-campus gymnasium since losing Jan. 4, 1995.

Clemson's 72-59 home win last Jan. 11 ended a five-game skid against the Blue Devils in regular-season play, but Duke has won 28 of the last 31 overall meetings after holding on for a 63-62 victory March 14 in the ACC tournament.

The Blue Devils have also won 46 of their last 50 conference home games.

The Tigers have dropped three of four overall after a 63-52 loss at Georgia Tech on Monday marked the eighth time they've shot below 40 percent in league games.

"It was a tough night for us," junior guard Jordan Roper said. "We didn't play to the best of our ability. We just couldn't get into a rhythm tonight."

Clemson is 1-4 against Top 25 teams with all four losses coming against ACC rivals. The Tigers' only victory in their last 14 against ranked ACC squads was the win over Duke last season.