Despite an aggressive offensive game and several clear-cut scoring opportunities, Duke failed to get on the scoreboard.

No. 5 seed Clemson ultimately beat the fourth-seeded Blue Devils 1-0 on a second-half penalty kick at Koskinen Stadium Sunday afternoon, clinching its spot in the ACC semifinals. Duke’s run in the ACC tournament is over after just one game, and the Blue Devils will continue to practice as they wait to see where they will be seeded for the NCAA tournament. 

“We didn’t take advantage of our opportunities and paid a severe price,” Duke head coach John Kerr said. “They tactically did a great job in the second half of creating opportunities, knowing that we were pushing for a goal. They found their second wind because we had them in the first half and didn’t capitalize. They were fortunate enough to get that penalty shot and score. We need to take care of our chances and make sure that our superiority benefits. 

The Blue Devils (12-4-2) came out with aggression and intensity to start the game, the momentum in their favor as they racked up seven shots in the period. Their defense was strong as well, holding the Tigers (12-4-1) without a shot in the first half.

Senior midfielder Brian White had some of Duke’s best chances to score, getting behind the defense on multiple occasions and either taking too heavy of a touch or being stopped by Clemson goalkeeper Ximo Miralles. About 15 minutes into the contest, White had a near-goal on a header, but it hit the crossbar and bounced away.

The Blue Devils squandered another golden opportunity in the first half when Max Moser set up freshman Daniel Wright for a header that flew over the post. 

“We played some really good stuff today,” Kerr said. “We were very aggressive, but the finishing touch wasn’t there. And it’s disappointing because I think if we had got one goal, it would have really boosted us and sunk their mentality.”

The turning point came in the 58th minute, when a foul by senior defender Markus Fjørtoft resulted in a penalty kick for forward Diego Campos, who placed the ball in the lower right corner of the goal just out of freshman goalkeeper Will Pulisic’s reach. After posting a hat trick to lead the Tigers past Duke when the teams met in the regular season, Campos played the hero again Sunday.

“The first goal changed everything,” White said. “We had a couple opportunities, and maybe missing those got in our head a little bit. We’ve just got to move on and keep trying to score.”

With the goal under its belt, the second half proved to be a different game for Clemson, which outshot Duke 8-7 after the break. The Blue Devils’ final scoring opportunity came at the foot of Moser, who sent a shot wide left as the clock wound down in the second half.

Miralles was put to work by the Blue Devils and had to make seven saves, while his counterpart Pulisic made just one.

Controversy also erupted in the final moments, as both teams played increasingly intensely and Duke fought fiercely to equalize. A Tiger went down in the last five minutes, and when it seemed like Duke had a chance to serve the ball into the box, the referee stopped the game for the injury with the player clutching his head. 

As players and coaches yelled both on and off the field, Fjørtoft was given a red card, which will sideline him for the first game of the NCAA tournament.

“The hard thing right now is to be mentally tough and be strong for each other,” Kerr said. “We didn’t play badly and we get a second chance here going into the NCAA. I always say, ‘Don’t get too high when you win and don’t get too low when you lose.’ That’s very difficult in the moment because we knew we should have done better. They’re a great bunch of guys, tough players, and it just wasn’t our day today.”

The Blue Devils will learn their seeding for the tournament—and whether they will play the first two rounds at home—when the NCAA bracket is revealed Nov. 13 at 1 p.m. on NCAA.com.