Clemson pushes No. 9 Duke to the brink, falls late

Clemson pushes No. 9 Duke to the brink, falls late

Basketball

Clemson pushes No. 9 Duke to the brink, falls late

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DURHAM, N.C. – As hard as Clemson’s men’s basketball team fought to wake up from it, the Tigers’ nightmare at Cameron Indoor Stadium continues.

Clemson pushed No. 9 Duke to the brink Tuesday but ultimately lost out on what would’ve been its most significant win of the season with a 71-69 setback to the Blue Devils. PJ Hall led the Tigers (11-9, 3-6 ACC) with 14 points and 10 rebounds, Hunter Tyson scored 13 points, and Chase Hunter added 12 points in his second game in the starting lineup for the Tigers, who got almost everything they needed to notch their first win at Cameron Indoor Stadium since the mid-1990s.

Clemson got off 19 more shots (71 to Duke’s 52), knocked down 11 of its 26 3-pointers and even neutralized Duke’s size advantage on the interior by outrebounding the Blue Devils by eight (39-31) and finishing plus-6 in paint points (28-22). But the Blue Devils (16-3, 6-2) shot 50% from deep and better than 48% overall to ultimately keep Clemson from notching that elusive win in Duke’s home building, a place the Tigers haven’t won since the 1994-95 season.

“Great basketball game,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “Incredibly proud of our players and team for the way we competed and just stuck with what we were trying to do tonight.”

Star freshman Paolo Banchero had 14 of his 19 points in the second half for Duke, including the final couple of buckets after Clemson chipped away at a seven-point deficit with 9 minutes, 25 seconds left. 

The teams traded buckets down the stretch until Joey Baker’s runner in the lane put Duke up 67-65 with 2:15 left. Banchero then gave the Blue Devils a two-possession lead with a baseline jumper. After Tyson got free for an outlet pass and a dunk to get Clemson back within a possession with 38.9 seconds left, the Tigers decided to play out Duke’s next possession with an 8-second differential between the game block and the shot clock.

Duke got the ball back to the potential top pick in this summer’s NBA Draft along the baseline, and the 6-foot-10 Banchero again finished over a defender to push the Blue Devils’ lead to 71-67 with just 10 seconds left. David Collins eventually scored the Tigers’ final basket on a putback with 1.7 ticks left, but it was too little, too late for Clemson, which shot 41% from the field and forced the Blue Devils into 12 turnovers, though only three of those came after halftime.

“I thought we played very well on both ends, but give Duke’s kid credits,” Brownell said. “They made the plays they needed to make at the end of games. Big baskets down the stretch.”

Clemson’s also had just four fouls called against it before Banchero’s final bucket. Brownell said he briefly thought about fouling the Blue Devils three times to get Duke to the bonus but ultimately decided against it given the way the Blue Devils were shooting free throws.

Clemson shot just one free throw while Duke attempted 13. The Blue Devils, who also got 13 points from Wendell Moore Jr. and 11 from Baker, made 11 of those freebies.

“I just didn’t want to give up points,” Brownell said.

Hall shot 6 of 21 from the field with seven of those attempts coming from 3-point range. He made two of those, including one in the waning seconds of the first half to send the teams to the break knotted at 36.

It was a theme for the Tigers early. Clemson struggled to score near the basket against the Blue Devils’ size, but the Tigers shot 50% from deep (6 of 12) in the opening 20 minutes. Clemson also turned Duke over nine times in the opening half, converting those into 12 points.

“I thought they played great,” Duke coach Mike Krzykewski said of Clemson. “Brad had them unbelievably prepared. The played the level of defense that has made him an outstanding coach at Clemson. I think they’re playing well, but I think that’s the best I’ve seen them play defense.

“Both teams played their hearts out.”

The Tigers also benefited from two quick fouls picked up by Banchero, who played just nine of the first 20 minutes. A baseline dunk by Tyson followed by a 3 from Al-Amir Dawes gave the Tigers their largest lead of the half at 31-26. Duke answered with a quick 6-0 spurt capped by Wendell Moore’s steal and flush, forcing Brad Brownell to use a timeout to halt the Blue Devils’ momentum.

Hall had nine first-half points, including a putback slam that put Clemson back on top on its next offensive sequence. His tying 3 with 10 seconds left in the half helped the Tigers offset a 46% shooting clip for Duke in the opening 20 minutes, including the Blue Devils knocking down six of their first 10 3s.

Duke scored the first five points of the second half before the teams continued to go back and forth. Ultimately, Brownell said, Duke made a few more timely plays to keep the Tigers from pulling the upset.

“You look at the stat sheet, and we did everything we could do,” Brownell said. “Took care of the ball and guarded them about as well as we could guard them, but it just wasn’t quite good enough.”

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