Clemson came out on the wrong end of another close game Wednesday, falling to No. 14 Duke 79-72 in the second round of the 2017 ACC Basketball Tournament in Brooklyn, N.Y. The loss eliminated the Tigers from the tournament.
Following a first half that ended in a 33-all tie, the Blue Devils looked as if they would cruise to victory thanks to a hot-shooting start to the second half that put them ahead by as much as 13 with a little more than nine minutes remaining in the game.
But the Tigers fought back and pulled within one point on a bucket by Marcquise Reed with 2:51 remaining. However, Duke ended the game on a 10-4 run to close out the win.
Jaron Blossomgame led Clemson (17-15, 6-12 ACC) with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting and eight rebounds while committing a team-high six turnovers. Shelton Mitchell added 17 points and three assists, while Reed had 13 points. Sidy Djitte posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Luke Kennard, Frank Jackson and Jayson Tatum paced Duke (25-8, 11-7) with 20 points apiece.
“Congratulations to Duke. I thought those guys really made plays in the second half and just outplayed us,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “I thought in the first half, once we kind of got into the game, I thought we played very well, defended them at a good level, but we had a harder time guarding them. I thought we made some mistakes defensively in the second half for sure.
“Our guys fought back, now. That’s what we do. We’re a tough team to knock out. But congratulations to Duke. They played very well.”
Duke began the second half on a 16-4 run to claim a double-digit lead early in the period. The Tigers hung around before going on a 10-1 run with under five minutes left to give themselves a chance to win.
It was a sloppy start for both teams as they combined for 15 turnovers in the first half. Clemson struggled against Duke’s defensive pressure early, but finished the first half tied with the Blue Devils thanks to 16-of-18 shooting from the free-throw line and Duke’s 3-of-12 clip from 3-point range.
Duke shot 49 percent in the game to Clemson’s 39 percent. Clemson outscored Duke by 10 points at the free-throw line, going 24-of-26, and the two teams totaled 22 turnovers. Clemson held a 26-2 advantage in bench points.
Blossomgame became only the sixth player in Clemson history to amass 1,700 career points, surpassing Horace Grant on the school’s all-time scoring list.
Twelve of Clemson’s 15 losses have been by seven points or less. Clemson also lost to Duke 64-62 in Durham, N.C., on Feb. 11.
Duke will play Louisville in the tournament at 2 p.m. tomorrow. Clemson’s NCAA Tournament hopes came to an end, though an NIT bid remains on the table.
“I find it very difficult to believe we’re going to make (the NCAA Tournament),” Brownell said. “We won six games. We probably needed to win eight or ten. That’s going to be a bugaboo. That’s obviously why today’s game was so important for our team. If we could have got today’s game, then I think we have a better chance, and then maybe one more.
“We’re not worried about that. We’ll see what happens, and if it’s — you know, we play in the NIT, we’ll do our best in that.”