Duke had little trouble beating Clemson earlier this month, but that was in the confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium, where it’s lost twice in the past three seasons.
The road has been far less friendly.
The seventh-ranked Blue Devils are 0 for 3 in true road games, and they’ll have to ward off memories of a blowout loss in their most recent trip to Littlejohn Coliseum when they visit No. 17 Clemson for Saturday’s prime-time showdown.
Duke (15-3, 3-2 ACC) went a mediocre 6-5 on the road last season, but there’s little doubt which of those games was the ugliest. Clemson (15-4, 3-2) hadn’t beaten the Blue Devils at Littlejohn Coliseum in 12 years before putting together a 74-47 rout on Feb. 4, holding Duke to its lowest point total since it scored 44 in the same building exactly 14 years earlier.
“They shouldn’t forget this loss,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the Tigers snapped their 20-game regular-season losing streak in the series. “This is as bad as you can play.”
It was the Blue Devils’ most lopsided defeat since a 103-73 loss to UNLV in the 1990 national championship game.
Duke won 13 of their first 14 games this season, its only blemish a four-point loss at Wisconsin’s Kohl Center on Dec. 2.
The Blue Devils’ road struggles, however, haven’t stopped there. They’ve won their three ACC home games by at least 20 points apiece - including a 74-53 win over Clemson on Jan. 3 - but have lost twice on the road, 71-67 at then-No. 20 Georgia Tech on Jan. 9 and 88-74 at North Carolina State on Wednesday.
“Our defense was the worst it’s been all year. It was never, ever good tonight,” Krzyzewski said after Duke let the Wolfpack shoot 58.2 percent from the field.
Krzyzewski’s team hasn’t lost four in a row on the road since Jan. 18-Feb. 13, 2003.
The Blue Devils shoot 42.4 percent and average 70.0 points on the road - 21.7 fewer than their national-best home average - while their opponents have shot 47.9 percent and scored 77.3 per game.
Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith had 22 points apiece in the win over the Tigers earlier this month, but they’ve both had problems on the road. Scheyer is shooting 35.7 percent - down 10 percent from his home average - while Smith averages 13.3 points, 6.6 fewer than he does in Durham.
Scheyer and Smith combined to score six points and shoot 2 of 15 in last season’s loss at Clemson.
Since falling at Duke, the Tigers have split their two road games—against both ACC teams that defeated the Blue Devils. Clemson blew nearly all of a 21-point lead before hanging on to win 73-70 in Raleigh on Saturday, then fell 66-64 to the No. 19 Yellow Jackets on Tuesday in a game that was tight throughout.
“Our guys don’t have anything to hang their heads about,” coach Oliver Purnell said. “They came on the road in the ACC against a hot team and we put ourselves in position to win.”
Trevor Booker, who led the way with 21 points against Duke last season, was held to 10 earlier this month in Durham but has since averaged 19.8 points.
He shot 4 of 11 in the loss at Duke as Clemson was held to a season-low 32.7 percent from the field, part of its 0-4 record when shooting below 40.0. Guards Demontez Stitt and Tanner Smith have made 31.5 percent in those games.
Duke has won 26 straight when holding its opponent under 40.0 percent.