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Behind enemy bylines: Clemson vs. No. 7 Duke

The Chronicle, Provided

Clemson guard Chase Hunter defends Duke forward Joey Baker.

Before Clemson men’s basketball hosts No. 7 Duke on Feb. 10, sports editor Justin Robertson spoke to Jake Piazza, sports editor of Duke’s student newspaper, The Chronicle. 

Justin Robertson: With Clemson losing Hunter Tyson with a collarbone injury, how do you see Paolo Banchero taking advantage of Clemson’s lack of depth at forward? 

Jake Piazza: This is mostly just a credit to Paolo, but from a matchup standpoint, I don’t know how much depth does in stopping him. He’s kind of had his way in most games this year, even in games when I’m watching him like, oh, you know, Paolo’s not playing great. A great example is the North Carolina game. Is he really playing that well? I look at the box score at the end and he has 13 points and ten rebounds. He’s just kind of walking into these double-doubles. So, I don’t know that it will be too much different than if Hunter Tyson was in just because Paolo is such a special player. He can just do things with a basketball that a lot of guys just aren’t able to do. 

Robertson: Outside of Banchero, who’s the one guy on Duke that Clemson needs to shut down? 

Piazza: I’ve got to go with AJ Griffin and the AJ Griffin mania that has swept across this campus and the Duke fandom. We already knew he was a good 3-point shooter prior to the North Carolina game, and I think maybe a little bit of a concern was can he do it off the dribble? Can he get to the mid-range and finish? Can he create his own shot when the 3-point line gets taken away? He was able to do that Saturday, and he really did look like that upper-half lottery pick that I think Bleacher Report has him right now in its latest mock draft. Shutting down AJ from the Ark is, I think, a spot that would make Duke vulnerable and then really making another guy be that 3-point guy who’s knocking down three or four of them. I think if you can go at AJ and kind of contain him, that’s a way to get at Duke. 

Robertson: What’s Duke’s biggest weakness and how can Clemson exploit that? 

Piazza: If you can get Mark Williams having to play defense outside of the paint or even get him switched off on pick-and-rolls onto smaller shiftier athletic guards, he can get into some foul trouble. Then that great shot blocking is not as much of an issue when he has to be taken out because he’s got two fouls in the first ten minutes of the game. So, I think from a weakness standpoint, if you can get Mark into foul trouble early that is a way you can get at Duke with its entire defense functioning off of the fact that he is just this seven-foot, incredible shot blocker.  

Robertson: Who needs to win this game more and why? 

Piazza: I’ll say Clemson just simply because I’m looking at the overall record. This would be a great shot at a statement win for Clemson. But, I will say though, I do think it is a really important game for Duke too, because from one week to another sometimes we see a little bit different of a team. It felt like the game against North Carolina was this turning point into a team that can really start to click and hit stride right at the time you want to hit stride. But, in that first Clemson game, PJ Hall looked fantastic. Clemson plays Duke really, really tough. Ultimately, just because of overall records, I’ve got to say it’s more of a must win for Clemson. But, I do think a loss in this game will be pretty dramatic in terms of how Duke is viewed heading into the tournament.  

Robertson: How do you see the game playing out and what is your final score prediction? 

Piazza: I’m going to go with something on the lower scoring end this time. I know this will be in the middle of a three-game road stretch for Duke, so I could maybe see Duke coming out a little flat. Maybe Clemson jumps out to a little bit of an early lead in that first half. So, I’m going to go final score: 65-60 Duke. 

Interview responses are edited for length and clarity. 

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