The last time Duke and Clemson met, the Tigers press defense overwhelmed the Blue Devils in a 74-47 rout that represented Duke's worst scoring output since 1995.
Sunday night, the Blue Devils got a measure of revenge for that February 2008 loss by putting on a defensive clinic of their own.
Duke (12-1, 1-0 in the ACC) held Clemson (12-3, 0-1) to just 12 points in the first half while building an 18-point lead it would never relinquish, giving it a well-earned 74-53 win in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Early on, a steady rotation of big men including Kyle Singler, Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek, and Miles and Mason Plumlee comprised an interior defense that suffocated the Tigers by holding them to five-for-30 shooting from the field in the first 20 minutes of play.
"They played, kind of a wall, around the basket," Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell said. "You shoot 16 percent in the first half and you score 12 points, you're just not going to win."
Unlike last season's matchup, in which Clemson's star forward Trevor Booker scored 21 points and was nearly unstoppable down low, Duke's big men—led by Singler—held the Clemson senior to just 10 points on four-of-11 shooting.
"Booker was a factor, he just wasn't as big of a factor," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I thought Kyle's 'look' tonight was the best one he's had all year."
After a slow scoring start for both teams, Duke started to pull away on a run keyed by Singler late in the first half. The junior took a charge and blocked a Booker shot attempt on two defensive possessions. Then he hit a three from the left wing on the other end to give Duke its first double-digit lead of the night at 20-10.
Clemson came out of the locker room fired up to start the second half, rattling off 10 unanswered points to cut Duke's lead to single digits.
But then Duke executed a quick sequence that began with a Mason Plumlee layup and ended with a Jon Scheyer steal and swished three. Coach K jumped up off the Duke bench pumping his fist to celebrate the five-point swing.
"Those artificial hips have springs in them," he said of his leaping celebratory outburst. "It was such a big play."
The Blue Devils largely cruised to victory from there, relying on the offensive production of Scheyer, and Nolan Smith, who each scored 22 points.
"Nolan's just played well all year—he and Jon together—they really have a nice thing going." Krzyzewski said.
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