Clemson University

Revenge on Blue Devils' mind against Clemson

If Clemson thought Duke might have forgotten last year's historic beatdown in Littlejohn Coliseum ... think again.

On Christmas Eve, junior center Jerai Grant was home near Washington D.C. and was visited by Duke guard Nolan Smith, a close friend and competitor.

With today's ACC opener between the Tigers (12-2) and Blue Devils (11-1) looming, the conversation turned to last season's 74-47 whipping Clemson levied at Littlejohn Coliseum, the biggest victory against a ranked Duke team in Tigers history.

"Just talking to Nolan, there was so much frustration afterward, they thought about it the whole season," Grant said.

"He was talking about how ready they are for us, how Coach K might come out with his jacket off already. It's definitely something for us to think about."

Late last season, Krzyzewski threw off his sport coat during games as a motivational tactic. That he would need to summon inspiration for this meeting illustrates Clemson's rare recent success in the series.

The No. 21 Tigers have beaten No. 7 Duke twice in a row after having lost 22 in a row in the series. The last time Clemson beat the Blue Devils three times in a row was from the 1994-95 and '95-96 seasons.

"Once we beat Duke the first time, it gave us confidence for the next time," senior forward David Potter said.

The logical progression would be a victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium, where the Tigers have lost 12 in a row. After Clemson's last triumph there in January 1995, Krzyzewski took a medical leave of absence for the rest of the season.

That next step does not figure to come easily for Clemson, which has only three players who have played more than 1 minute of a game at Duke.

Standout senior forward Trevor Booker has exploited Duke's lack of interior bulk the past two years, averaging 18.0 points on 23-of-32 shooting (71.9 percent) the last three meetings. Seventeeen of his 25 rebounds have come from the offensive glass.

But only Potter has accumulated as many as 10 points in the two combined victories, and it remains to be seen whether this season's cast can execute one of its keys against Duke: 3-point defense. The Blue Devils have shot 30.8 percent from 3-point range in the past two losses.

Coming into tonight, Duke ranks in the top 10 nationally at 43.3 percent and leads in the ACC with 3-pointers made per game (8.8).

"Since we laid it on them last year, they're going to be ready to play and try to do us the same way," junior point Demontez Stitt said.

Coach Oliver Purnell said he is pleased with where Clemson is entering ACC play.

While the touted freshman class has not made the splash comparable to its billing, Purnell insists they are "coming along," with Booker's younger brother, center Devin Booker, sliding into the starting lineup last week.

Purnell's two areas of concern are turnovers and defensive rebounding. Conversely, he loves the way the team is sharing the ball and thinks the Tigers have consistently gotten quality shots while displaying Purnell's desired level of defensive work ethic.

"Early in the year, one of the toughest places to play in the country, this would be a big win for us," Purnell said. "But we have the opportunity for a lot of big wins this year."

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