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Five observations from Duke men’s basketball’s first half against Clemson

Vernon Carey Jr. lit up the box score in the first half, though so did Clemson big Aamir Simms.
Vernon Carey Jr. lit up the box score in the first half, though so did Clemson big Aamir Simms.

Clemson, S.C.—After cruising through their last two weeks of ACC play, the Blue Devils are in a battle in the first half against the Tigers Tuesday night, entering halftime trailing 40-33. Clemson caught fire from deep and powered through Duke’s defense for some tough buckets to energize the crowd in Littlejohn Coliseum and give the third-ranked Blue Devils their stiffest conference challenge since Virginia Tech in early December. Here are five observations from the opening half.

Clemson heats up from deep

The Tigers used a hot start from the 3-point line to carry a lead into the half, making four of their first six attempts from deep to open the game, successfully shooting over Duke’s vaunted defense. Coming into tonight’s contest, Duke’s opponents had shot under 30 percent from beyond the arc, but Clemson sits at 55.6 percent on the night from deep. 

Early turnovers haunt Duke

The Blue Devils entered Tuesday night’s game averaging just under 14 turnovers per game, but racked up nearly half their average total in the first five minutes of the game. The miscues allowed Clemson to get some free possessions and keep the Tigers in the game early. 

Aamir Simms is a force to be reckoned with

Simms, the hero of Clemson’s win against North Carolina over the weekend, has been outstanding in the first half for the Tigers. With just over six minutes to play, he knocked down a huge 3-pointer to stretch Clemson’s lead to seven and bring his personal points total to ten. He also grabbed a pair of rebounds and assists early to help the Tigers extend their first half lead. Clemson's leading scorer finished the period with 12 points and four rebounds.

Duke’s offense goes cold

The Blue Devil offense has looked uncomfortable in Littlejohn, going on an extended cold stretch from the field for over four minutes late in the half. With sharpshooter Joey Baker sidelined with a right ankle injury he suffered in practice, the Blue Devils are dearly missing one of their best shooters and have had a difficult time getting a flow going on offense.

Player of the half: Vernon Carey Jr.

Although his inside game deservedly gets the most attention, Carey’s passing abilities should not be overlooked. The big man got the scoring started with a great feed to Matthew Hurt for Duke’s first bucket of the game and followed it up a few minutes later with another great assist to Alex O’Connell. As Carey looked to be trapped in the corner, he whipped the ball to O’Connell cutting into the lane from the opposite side of the court for an easy layup. The freshman center would continue to eat inside, scoring 10 points and grabbing three offensive rebounds.

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