Durham, NC (Sports Network) - The Duke Blue Devils' reign as the nation's top-
ranked team continues, and their next game has them playing host to ACC rival
Clemson on Tuesday night.
Clemson has been decent through the first two months of the season, posting an
8-5 record. The Tigers had been winners of two in a row -- South Carolina
State (77-41) and The Citadel (92-51) -- before closing out a three-game
homestand last Saturday with a 71-66 defeat at the hands of Florida State.
This bout marks their true road game outside the state of South Carolina.
After beginning the season ranked eighth in the country, Duke has risen all
the way to the top spot following an outstanding 14-0 start, marking the sixth
time in school history it's accomplished that feat. The team's spectacular run
includes a pair of wins over top-five foes in Louisville (76-71) and Ohio
State (73-68), and it is one of only four teams still unbeaten at this point
in the season -- Michigan, Arizona and Wyoming being the others. The Blue
Devils recently opened their ACC slate with an 80-62 victory over Wake Forest
Duke has won four straight meetings against Clemson, improving its mark in the
all-time series to an astounding 103-29.
Clemson trailed by as many as 16 points to Florida State in the second half of
its most recent outing, and even though it came back to make it just a three-
point contest down the stretch, it could never get over the hump as it
suffered the five-point loss. The Tigers have seen better days from the field,
as they shot just 38.9 percent, but Devin Booker experienced no such struggles
as he drained 8-of-11 shots for 19 points while adding 11 rebounds. K.J.
McDaniels tacked on 15 points, Jordan Roper chipped in 11 off the bench, and
Milton Jennings finished with 10. On the season, the Tigers aren't especially
impressive at the offensive end (.454 FG percentage, 66.6 ppg), but they have
been more than productive enough considering their outstanding scoring defense
(56.2 ppg), which ranks third in the ACC. Booker has been consistently strong
in the frontcourt, making nearly 60 percent of his field goal attempts while
leading the team in scoring (11.9 ppg) and rebounding (7.5 rpg). McDaniels
(11.4 ppg) has been disruptive at the defensive end (1.9 bpg, 1.5 spg), and
Jennings adds 10.1 ppg and 5.2 rpg.
Duke opened up a 17-point lead in the opening half against Wake Forest on
Saturday, and never looked back en route to another comfortable win. The Blue
Devils shot 46 percent from the floor, including 11-of-24 from 3-point range,
while winning the turnover battle by a 19-6 margin. Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly
each scored 22 points, while Mason Plumlee logged his ninth double-double of
the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Rasheed Sulaimon also contributed
to the balanced attack with 12 points. Not surprisingly, Duke has been
outstanding at both ends of the court this season, averaging 80.1 ppg while
allowing just 61.8 ppg for an ACC-best scoring margin of plus-18.3. Plumlee is
building a strong resume' for conference player of the year, ranking second in
scoring (18.4 ppg), first in rebounding (11.3 ppg), and fifth in blocked shots
(1.5 bpg), all while shooting an outstanding 63.4 percent from the floor.
Curry has been a solid second-scoring option, putting together strong
percentages from 3-point range (.408) and the foul line (.804) on his way to
16.6 ppg. Rounding out perhaps the best starting five in the nation is Kelly
(13.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.8 bpg), Sulaimon (11.9 ppg) and Quinn Cook (10.3 ppg,
6.2 apg, 1.8 spg).
The Sports Network