CLEMSON, S.C.—It is a well-known fact that tigers are extremely territorial — and now at an impressive 5-0 at home after Thursday night, the Clemson Tigers certainly defended their home turf.
From the very start of the game, Duke was playing catch-up to Clemson’s narrow lead. By the second quarter, the Tigers took an advantage and held it until the very end of the game en route to an 80-64 win at Littlejohn Coliseum. Although the Blue Devils were favored by 13.5 by HHS ahead of tipoff, they didn’t quite look the part on the court Thursday.
According to head coach Kara Lawson, the 3-pointer was “the main culprit in the margin.”
In the paint, Duke could mostly keep Clemson at bay, but the Blue Devil defense started to crumble beyond the arc. At times, the Tigers seemed unstoppable in their 3-point play — graduate forward Amari Robinson and senior guard Mackenzie Kramer both went 3-of-3 from deep. With every shot, the Tigers seemed to be set even more aflame, making 61.1% of their total threes by the end of the game. Duke, on the other hand, couldn’t seem to land 3-pointers effectively during the game — only 36% of their treys were successful.
Despite their deficit as a unit, the highlight of the Blue Devils’ offensive performance was sophomore guard Taina Mair. Every time Duke seemed to be slipping further away from a win, the Boston native would make another shot. During the game, the former Boston College transfer racked up 19 points — a new season-high for her. However, the combined effort of the team just didn’t stack up against the Tigers.
Beyond the issue of 3-pointers, during their ACC opener — when the Blue Devils should be brimming with their notorious speed and energy — Duke seemed tired. Clemson moved at a pace that completely slowed the visitors’ offensive rhythm. At one point in the game, the Blue Devils missed three shots in a row, only for the Tigers to turn the ball over and score a 3-pointer with ease. When Duke missed, Clemson seemed to be fueled even further.
“We were really undisciplined within our schemes,” Lawson said, “I thought they (Clemson) wanted it more than we did.”
Indeed, the Tigers seemed to have an unwavering, razor-sharp focus that Duke lacked. And with every point that the Tigers made, the Blue Devils continued to exhaust. In the first quarter, Duke had one turnover, but in the third they had six. Clemson capitalized on the chances it got, scoring 20 points off of turnovers. Not once did the Blue Devils surpass the Tigers, who were either winning or tied with Duke throughout the whole game.
Duke’s urgency started to drop off by the second quarter, when Clemson secured its lead. Further, the Blue Devils lacked their usual defensive aggression, landing zero personal fouls compared to their game total of 15, as well as logging only five rebounds. In the final quarter, Duke seemed to gain some determination back, with six fouls and seven rebounds — but it was not nearly enough to surpass Clemson.
Thursday night, Duke got a taste of ACC play, and one thing is for certain — if the Blue Devils aim to become a formidable ACC opponent this year, their energy cannot waver like it did tonight and the cannot surrender as many three as they did while making as relatively few. They need to be relentless. According to Lawson, they need to want it more.
“It doesn't guarantee you win the game, but it gives you the best chance to win the game.” Lawson said. “They [Clemson] definitely deserve to win this one.”
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