Duke's bid to improve to 3-0 on the road in the ACC was derailed Wednesday night in Greenville, S.C., as Clemson picked up its second straight win against a ranked opponent with a 68-63 win. Burdened by four fouls on Brandon Ingram and Marshall Plumlee, the Blue Devils were forced to switch things up defensively and got worn down by a physical Tiger squad.
Revisiting the three keys to the game:
- Keep it going from long range: Check. The Blue Devils exploded for six straight made 3-pointers in the first half Wednesday, finishing the night with 11 triples on 25 attempts. Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram led the way with three treys apiece, and freshmen Luke Kennard and Derryck Thornton each added two of their own. At the end of the day, though, Matt Jones' would-be game-tying 3-pointer fell well short, and the Blue Devils hurt themselves not at the 3-point line, but at the free-throw line, where they took just seven shots—all in the second half—and made only two.
- Keep Plumlee involved: Center Marshall Plumlee had posted consecutive career-best performances in his previous two games, and though his numbers weren't bad—seven points and nine rebounds had the Warsaw, Ind., native closing in on yet another double-double—they weren't enough to help the Blue Devils win the battle down low against Clemson's Landry Nnoko and Sidy Djitte. Plumlee was hampered by foul trouble for much of the night, which limited his ability to be aggressive on both ends of the floor, but he did well to play through the final 9:32 without picking up his fifth personal.
- Stay agile on defense: Duke will win most games in which it allows just 68 points, but Wednesday was not one of them. The Tigers shot 45.5 percent from the floor and enjoyed a 10-point advantage at the charity stripe. Duke's foul issues throughout the second half forced head coach Mike Krzyzewski to switch between zone looks, which Clemson was able to break down for high-percentage looks. Playing against a physical ACC team, the Blue Devils seemed to wear down a bit by the end of the game, in part a function of the team's limited depth without Amile Jefferson.
Three Key Stats:
- Chase Jeter fouls out in four minutes: With Ingram and Plumlee saddled with foul trouble, Duke needed Jeter to eat up some minutes in the middle to help the Blue Devils shorten the game. Instead, the freshman from Las Vegas was whistled for two fouls of his own less than a minute of game action after replacing Plumlee, and fouled out with 9:32 left in the game. Jeter's final stat line was no points on no shot attempts with one rebound in four minutes.
- Duke goes 2-for-7 at the free-throw line: The Blue Devils have usually been able to offset a tough shooting night by driving into the paint relentlessly and drawing contact, getting opponents into the bonus quickly in halves. That didn't happen Wednesday, as the Blue Devils headed to the locker room without attempting a single free throw. It was more of the same in the second half, and when Duke finally got to the line, it could not convert. The Blue Devils normally shoot 73 percent as a team from the line, but not even the normally automatic Allen could solve the Clemson rims from the stripe.
- Clemson outrebounds Duke 36-24: The Blue Devils lost the battle on the boards by a sizable margin Wednesday, typically not a recipe for success. As a team, Duke collected just four offensive rebounds to the Tigers' 10 and scored just three second-chance points to Clemson's 10. Overall, The Tigers simply outmuscled and wore down the Blue Devils in the paint all night line long, putting Duke's big men into foul trouble that turned the game in Clemson's favor.
Three Key Plays:
- 1.6 seconds remaining, first half: After a poorly executed two-for-one at the end of the half left the Blue Devils without a basket but clinging to a four-point lead, Ingram fouls Clemson's Jaron Blossomgame as the Tiger swingman prepared to hoist a heave at the horn. The whistle was Ingram's third personal foul—an unnecessary crime that loomed large in the second half—and gave Blossomgame two free throws to trim the deficit to 35-33 at the break. Blossomgame had struggled in the first half shooting, but after seeing those two freebies go in, he came alive in the second 20 minutes and finished with a team-high 17 points.
- 8:21 remaining, second half: Donte Grantham finishes off a personal 6-2 run with a 3-pointer to tie the game at 50. Just one possession after an old-fashioned 3-point play drew Jeter's fifth foul, Grantham showed off his versatility with one of his three triples on the night. Blossomgame followed with another trey on the next Tiger trip downcourt to give Clemson's its first lead since the opening minutes.
- 13.3 seconds remaining, second half: With time running out, the Blue Devils needed one defensive stop to have a chance. They didn't get it. Clemson's Jordan Roper penetrated through the left wing and slipped a pass to a cutting Blossomgame for an emphatic dunk that increased the Tiger lead to 66-63. It was one of Roper's nine assists on the night, and proved decisive after Matt Jones' 3-pointer from the corner was well short on the ensuing Duke possession.
And the Duke game ball goes to.... Grayson Allen: Allen led the Blue Devils with 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including a 3-of-4 effort from downtown. The sophomore hit a critical 3-pointer from the corner in front of the Duke bench to trim Clemson's lead to three with 2:19 to play, and added a lay-up with 35 seconds left to cut the deficit to one. Allen was about as efficient as it gets for a perimeter player Wednesday, but his two misses at the free-throw line—one of them on the front end of a one-and-one—kept Duke from further its extending its lead when it had the chance.
And the Clemson game ball goes to.... Landry Nnoko: Blossomgame and Grantham seemingly delivered all the highlights, but it was Nnoko's steady interior presence that helped the Tigers spring the upset. The senior from Cameroon delivered an impressive double-double of 12 points and 13 rebounds—five of them offensive—and added four blocks to help Clemson command the paint and get Plumlee and Ingram in foul trouble. Nnoko had four fouls himself, but played the entire second half.
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