By John Falduto
On January 14, 2020, Clemson defeated No. 3 Duke by a score of 79-72 at Littlejohn Coliseum, handing the ACC-leading Blue Devils their first loss in conference play and only second of the entire season. Three years later, it’s the Tigers (6-0, 14-3) who sit undefeated and atop the ACC as the No. 24 Blue Devils (4-2, 13-4) once again travel to a sold-out Littlejohn Coliseum, looking to be the first conference opponent to knock off the Tigers in 2023.
Clemson has been one of the hottest teams in the country as of late, winning 10 of their last 11, including their last six straight. The team is led by fifth-year senior Hunter Tyson, who is emerging as an early candidate for Conference Player of the Year. The forward has tallied five consecutive double-doubles, good for the longest streak by a Clemson player in nearly 30 years, with Sharone Wright being the last player to do it in 1993.
“He’s just playing with confidence. He’s shooting balls in, he’s attacking the basket, rebounding…in huddles, his voice is the loudest,” said Clemson head coach Brad Brownell of Tyson. “He’s a grown-up. He’s a man. He acts like it in how he plays, he acts like it in how he practices, he acts like it in how he approaches practice… it’s a privilege to coach young people like that.”
As a team, Clemson leads the ACC in free-throw shooting (78.7%) and three-point shooting (38.9%), and ranks fifth in scoring with 75.8 points per game. Hunter Tyson averages a team-high 16.2 points per game, and Chase Hunter and PJ Hall contribute 14.5 and 12.4 points per game, respectively.
The Blue Devils come into the game winners of two straight and ranked No. 24, their lowest ranking of the season after starting as high as No. 7 in November. The team is led by first-year head coach Jon Scheyer, a former two-time captain as a player for the Blue Devils who has been on the coaching staff since 2014. Scheyer took over the job after the retirement of legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski, who led the team to the Final Four in last season’s NCAA Tournament.
Duke currently leads the ACC in offensive rebounding (13.6), total rebounds per game (39.8), and sits a tenth of a percentage behind Clemson for the best free-throw shooting team in the conference (78.6%). 7’0” freshman Kyle Filipowski leads the team in both points (14.3) and rebounds per game (8.9), and is an early candidate for the ACC Men’s Basketball Rookie of the Year, the same award won by Duke’s Paolo Banchero last season.
Both teams will be without a starter on Saturday, as Clemson’s Alex Hemenway is set to miss his sixth straight game with a foot injury, and Duke’s Jeremy Roach will miss his third straight game with a toe injury. Hemenway leads Clemson in three-point shooting (50%), while Roach, a captain, contributes 11.9 points and 3.2 assists per game for the Blue Devils.
Tip-off at Littlejohn Coliseum is slated for 5:00 PM ET and will be broadcast on The Clemson Athletic Network - 105.5/97.5, theroarfm.com/listen or The ROAR App.