Just five days after the Clemson University men’s basketball team pulled off a noteworthy upset of the No. 3 Duke Blue Devils, the Clemson women’s basketball team downed the Blue Devils for the first time in 20 years on Sunday.
Clemson snapped Duke’s 23-game winning streak in the ACC rivalry, the Tigers kept the Blue Devils at bay down the stretch and came away with a riveting 62-58 victory at Littlejohn Coliseum. Sunday marked the first time since the 1996-1997 season that Clemson men and women’s basketball beat Duke inside Littlejohn Coliseum in the same season, while also becoming the first time since 1995 that both teams beat Duke in Littlejohn in the same week (Feb. 1, 1995 women; Feb. 4 1995 men).
“I’m happy for our kids to have that sense of pride that how hard they’re working us is getting us the results that we want,” Clemson head coach Amanda Butler said after the game.
Clemson (7-11, 3-4) shot 34.5 percent from the floor on the afternoon, and held Duke (9-9, 3-4) to a 32.3 shooting percentage. While the Blue Devils forced the Tigers into committing 26 turnovers, the 50 rebounds and 22 second-chance points that Clemson compiled made the ultimate difference in the game. The Tigers also knocked down seven 3-pointers and went 15-for-21 at the charity stripe, with several clutch free throws late in the contest helping Clemson wrap up the win.
“We definitely made the plays we needed to win,” Butler said. “We had a tremendous start to the game. We couldn’t have played any better in the first half. There was a whole lot of determination from our team today.”
Amari Robinson and Kendall Spray led the charge for the Tigers with 16 points apiece. Spray was a force to be reckoned with on the glass, too, as she pulled down a career-high 12 rebounds as part of her first career double-double. Spray, who sank five 3-balls, has now reached double figures in scoring 10 times on the season. Robinson corralled nine rebounds of her own and was an impressive 8-of-10 on free throw attempts. Kobi Thornton added 14 points and eight rebounds for Clemson. Duke’s Leaonna Odom scored a game-high 20 points, and Haley Gorecki tallied 16 points for the Blue Devils.
“Duke was really locked in on Kendall and tried to put pressure on her,” Butler said. “We played a little bit outside and couldn’t really trust our sets to get shots. So we had to do more creating. We just sustained our energy throughout and prevailed. It wasn’t pretty, but we don’t care. We just want to be us.”
The first half was dominated by the Tigers, whose intense defensive pressure limited the Blue Devils to 14 points through two quarters. Clemson jumped out to a commanding lead before Duke got on the board, with a 3-pointer by Spray at the 6:43 mark of the first quarter capping off a 12-0 Clemson run to start the game. The next time down the floor, Spray made another trey, and Clemson ultimately boasted a 20-7 advantage at the end of the first quarter. Clemson’s superb defense continued to pay dividends in the second quarter, with the Tigers going into halftime up 28-14 after the Blue Devils were held scoreless for the final 4:32 of the first half.
Duke was 0-for-10 from beyond the 3-point arc in the first half, as Clemson never trailed through 20 minutes of action. While the Tigers did not relinquish their lead at any point in the second half, the Blue Devils made things interesting with a fourth-quarter turnaround. In the third quarter, Spray connected on a trio of 3-pointers, and Clemson led by as many as 18 points. However, the Blue Devils, who trailed 47-31 heading into the fourth quarter, outscored Clemson 27-15 in the fourth and decreased their deficit to two points in the final minute. The Tigers kept their composure, though, and a pair of free throws by Robinson with two seconds remaining iced the 62-58 triumph for Clemson.
Having won two in a row, the Tigers will head to South Florida to take on the Miami Hurricanes (10-7, 2-4) at the Watsco Center for their next outing on Thursday, Jan. 23. Set to tip off at 6:30 p.m., the first of two scheduled meetings between Clemson and Miami this season will air on ACC Network.