No. 9 Duke returned to its winning ways over the weekend. That just leads to another item on the Blue Devils’ to-do list.

“We’ve got to turn it around again and get Clemson on Tuesday,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Of course, optimism has returned for Duke in recent weeks. Clemson will arrive Tuesday night at Durham, N.C., after the Blue Devils turned in one of their best performances of the season.

Duke (15-3, 5-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) excelled in many ways in defeating visiting Syracuse 79-59 on Saturday.

“For a few minutes in the second half, I thought it was the best we’ve played because we coupled really good defense with some outstanding offense,” Krzyzewski said.

It all resulted in some true balance offensively. Four Duke players scored 15 points.

Clemson (11-8, 3-5) had one of its better games Saturday, as well: a 75-48 blowout of visiting Pitt.

“Very focused and did exactly what we practiced for two days, to try to shore up our defense,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “Hopefully, that will continue and be a big determiner on how we finish the season.”

PJ Hall of Clemson has scored in double figures in 18 consecutive games, so he’s bound to be a focus of the Duke defense.

There could be another twist for the Tigers. Chase Hunter was in the starting lineup for the first time this season against Pitt, and he responded with 13 points.

“He has continued to work and be coachable,” Brownell said. “I’m just happy he has been playing better the last month, and he deserved to start.”

AJ Griffin joined the Duke starting lineup for the past three games. He provides a shooting component that’s bound to boost the Blue Devils in certain ways.

“I think they’re learning to play with one another,” Krzyzewski said. “AJ is our best shooter, and I’d really like for him to be more aggressive. I think AJ keeps it really simple. He’s a really easy guy to play with because he keeps spacing. … The more and more we get to know one another, he’s a key guy, there is no question about it. Every guy on our team has complete confidence in him when they pass it to him.”

Duke knocked down 14 shots from 3-point range in the Syracuse game.

“I think we’re just shooting our shots now,” forward Paolo Banchero said. “One thing Coach says is don’t hesitate — if it’s there, shoot it. Let it go.”

Banchero had 15 points, ending a streak of four consecutive games with 20 or more points. But he provided a season-best 13 rebounds.

Duke played Saturday for the first time this season without freshman guard Trevor Keels, who suffered a leg injury last week at Florida State. But despite the scary nature of the injury when it occurred, Krzyzewski said it won’t keep him sidelined long.

With Keels out, Jeremy Roach moved back into the starting lineup. He delivered a team-high nine assists.

“It’s next man up,” Roach said. “It’s not like I’m not used to starting, so I came in and accepted my role.”

The teams will meet again Feb. 10 at Clemson in a make-up game from a scheduled Dec. 29 game. That matchup was called off at the time because Duke’s team had entered COVID-19 protocol.

–Field Level Media