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TIGERS TAMED: Duke men's basketball blows out Clemson behind balanced offensive attack

<p>Mark Williams had perhaps his best game as a Blue Devil Saturday against Clemson.</p>

Mark Williams had perhaps his best game as a Blue Devil Saturday against Clemson.

After a week filled with talk of Duke missing the NCAA tournament, the Blue Devils showed they had something to say about that, and proved that you can’t close the book on their season just yet. 

Duke welcomed Clemson to Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday afternoon in a matchup that held heavy implications for both squads, and it was all Duke all game long. Anchored by a balanced offensive attack that featured scoring from nine different Blue Devils, Duke cruised to a 79-53 victory.

“The start of the second half, we played like a veteran team in not allowing a big lead to determine how hard or how well we would play,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. 

There was no better play to describe the entire game than Mark Williams’ dunk with 11 minutes remaining. Senior guard Jordan Goldwire began the play by corralling a tipped offensive rebound and rifling a pass to an open Jalen Johnson. When a Clemson defender collapsed onto Johnson, the star freshman flipped a no-look pass to Williams, who finished it with the flush. 

Thus was the theme for the entire afternoon.

It was an all-hands-on-deck effort in every sense of the phrase, with Matthew Hurt leading the charge with his 13 points and Jeremy Roach, Mark Williams and Wendell Moore Jr. trailing right behind him at 12, 11 and 11 points, respectively.

Those three Blue Devils may have filled up the stat sheet best, but undoubtedly the moment that Duke fans will remember the most was the one-handed slam from Johnson eight minutes into the game, a dunk that’s surely going to be on repeat on SportsCenter in the coming days. 

When Williams and Steward were asked about the dunk in the postgame press conference, both used the same word: “crazy.”

The slam gave Duke (7-5, 5-3 in the ACC) an early 11-5 lead, and undoubtedly sparked the Blue Devils en route to a 41-22 halftime advantage.

Johnson was far from the only Blue Devil with a highlight-worthy moment, though.

Williams also showed off his rim-rocking abilities in the first half off an alley-oop pass from Goldwire.

And Roach, who went without a point in the two games preceding this matchup, reintroduced himself to college basketball 12 minutes into Saturday's game with a hard drive to his right that he finished with a crafty Euro step and underhanded flip. From then on, Roach looked to be back to his old self, knocking down a 3-pointer and ultimately finishing the first half with seven points. 

“He’s just gotta keep playing. He’s got to keep playing,” Krzyzewski. “He’s a good player. [He’s gotta] keep taking his shots. As long as it doesn’t impact, when he’s not scoring, the defensive end. In fact, his defense has picked up. He’s getting better. He’s gotta keep being him.”

Moore, who scored just 13 total points over Duke's previous two games, joined Roach in getting back on track.

Although the sophomore forward is not known for being a 3-point shooter, the majority of his 11 points against the Tigers came from his three made shots from deep. His performance from beyond the arc bodes well for both his future and the team’s season.

“We’re not this outstanding team,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re a good team with great kids who are trying to get through this whole thing without the experience of a fall and a nonconference and exhibition and that.”

At the start of the second half, Duke crippled any hopes Clemson (10-5, 4-5) had at mounting a comeback. Steward, Hurt and Moore each stroked a 3-pointer, and by the first media timeout of the second period the Blue Devils boasted a 54-27 edge.

“We had a big lead going into halftime, but Coach said to ‘Stay hungry,’” Steward said. “He said, ‘Don’t be happy and content.’ So we just went out there. We always say our first four minutes got to be the best at the beginning of the game and coming out in the second half.”

The Blue Devils will look to continue their winning ways Monday night at Miami.

“This is definitely our launching pad,” Steward said.

Jake C. Piazza

Jake Piazza is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.


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