While Duke is eager to begin ACC play after a string of blowout victories, Clemson hardly looks ready for it after a lackluster finish to non-conference action.
A visit to Cameron Indoor Stadium has never been a good way for the 21st-ranked Tigers to get a win.
Clemson has beaten the No. 7 Blue Devils twice in a row after losing 22 straight meetings, but it has been nearly 15 years since the Tigers last won in Durham, where the teams start conference play Sunday.
Duke (11-1) is 8-0 at home and has won five straight overall, the last four by an average of 40.0 points.
The guard tandem of Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith has led the way offensively, with Scheyer averaging 24.3 points and 8.8 assists in his last four contests while Smith has gone 11 of 14 from 3-point range in the last three.
Smith had 23 points and Scheyer added 19 points and 11 assists in a 114-55 win over Penn on Thursday, and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski sounded like he was ready for bigger challenges.
“I’m not saying we’re this perfect machine, but we’re anxious to start,” Krzyzewski said. “And the nine kids we have that are going to play are healthy enough to play. We have bruises and knees and all that kind of stuff, but when you have nine guys that can play and they have great attitudes and they’re hungry to play, then it’s time to get going.”
Freshmen Mason Plumlee and Andre Dawkins were among the five Duke scorers in double figures against Penn, adding depth behind the standout upperclass trio of Scheyer, Smith and junior forward Kyle Singler.
Regardless of the players populating Duke’s roster, the results have not changed at Cameron for Clemson, which is 4-54 all-time in the building. The Tigers have lost 12 straight there since a 75-70 win on Jan. 4, 1995.
Clemson (12-2) has, however, caught the Blue Devils’ attention lately, snapping a 22-game losing streak in the series with a 78-74 win in the 2008 ACC tournament semifinals. The Tigers followed that with a 74-47 home win over Duke on Feb. 4.
Coach Oliver Purnell’s team took less pride in its latest victory, 70-67 over South Carolina State on Tuesday. Clemson struggled to put away the Bulldogs after winning its previous five games by an average of more than 23 points.
“Coming into this game, I was happy,” Purnell said. “In college basketball, upsets happen all the time. We avoided one (Tuesday). Hopefully, we’ll be energized to go on the road and play in the ACC.”
The Tigers will certainly have to play better after allowing South Carolina State to shoot 50.0 percent from the field. They were outscored 37-29 after halftime, holding on only when Andre Young’s late steal set up some clinching free throws by Demontez Stitt.
“We don’t take worry from it, we just take heed to it,” Stitt said. “We’re a better team than what we showed.”
Clemson will hope for a big effort from senior forward Trevor Booker, who averages a team-leading 14.8 points and scored a game-high 21 on 8-of-10 shooting in last season’s meeting with Duke.
In that game, the Tigers held Singler, Scheyer and Smith to a combined 12 points as the trio shot 4 of 23 (17.4 percent).