Hood's free throws lift Duke basketball past Clemson 63-62GREENSBORO, N.C.—Redshirt sophomore Rodney Hood sprinted from the court early in the second half to vomit into a Gatorade cooler on the Duke bench. But when it mattered most, Hood did not let his nerves get the best of him.
Hood knocked down two free throws with 3.8 seconds remaining, preserving a 63-62 victory for the third-seeded Blue Devils against sixth-seeded Clemson in the quarterfinal round of the ACC tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum. Hood finished with 17 points on the night.
"I just got eye contact with him when he got the ball and I said, 'Go,'" Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I believe in Rodney and you sink or swim with him, and we're still swimming, so thank goodness."
Despite leading by as many as 13 points in the second half, Duke (25-7) allowed the Tigers (20-12) to take the lead at 62-61 with nine seconds to play when Rod Hall got a runner in the lane to rattle home. Krzyzewski decided not to take a timeout and Hood pushed the ball back down the court and was able to draw the foul. He calmly sunk both ends of a one-and-one to give his team back the lead for good.
"Not at all," said sophomore Amile Jefferson when asked if he was worried Hood's nerves would return at the free-throw line. "He's clutch. Those are the types of plays Rodney lives for. It's really good to have a player like that on your side."
Hall tried to replicate Hood's drive down the floor and draw contact as the buzzer sounded, but the referees' whistle remained silent and Duke was able to escape with the win.
Hood's impromptu exit from the court came just 1:14 into the second half. He remained on the bench for just three minutes before returning to the court and knocking down a jumper on his first attempt.
"I have no idea," Hood said when asked what caused his stomach problems. "I felt good after it, so I mean, if it works then, oh well."
Bringing back sour memories of Clemson's upset victory against the Blue Devils Jan. 11, Duke's interior defense was porous down the stretch as Clemson scored on seven consecutive possessions to take the lead in the closing seconds.
On a night where they shot just 3-for-13 from beyond the arc, the Blue Devils attacked the basket relentlessly. Trailing 25-23 with 1:38 remaining in the first half, Duke capped off the period with a 6-2 run thanks to a transition layup by Quinn Cook and dunks by Hood and Jabari Parker. The Blue Devils extended that run to 12-2 early in the second half, giving them control of the game at the time.
Parker led the way for Duke with 18 points on the night and sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon—who finished with 14 points—hit a big runner in the lane to give his team some breathing room as Clemson made its comeback push.
"We really wanted to get to the basket," Parker said. "At the beginning of the second half we really got a lot of stuff going to the rim, and I think we got away from that."
After being outrebounded by Clemson 48-30 in the teams' first meeting, the Blue Devils asserted themselves on the glass in the rematch and won the rebounding battle 34-25. Jefferson led the way for Duke with 13 boards on the evening.
It took a team effort to hold Clemson's K.J. McDaniels—a first-team All-ACC selection who torched the Blue Devils in the teams' first meeting—to just 12 points. Although the junior had 10 of those points in the second half, the Duke defense forced him to work for every shot.
"He's a really good player," Jefferson said. "To limit him and keep him from getting too many points was really good for our ball club. We did a great job defensively I think, for most of the game, and that helped us get the win."
Duke will move on to face seventh-seeded N.C. State in tomorrow's semifinal round at 3 p.m. The Wolfpack are a surprise semifinalist in this year's field, knocking off second-seeded Syracuse in a 66-63 stunner.