EARNING STRIPES: Proctor's last-gasp free throws help No. 12 Duke men's basketball survive Clemson

Jared McCain fights for space as he drives to the rim against Clemson.
Jared McCain fights for space as he drives to the rim against Clemson.

The “best of both worlds” isn’t supposed to be attainable, unless you’re Hannah Montana … or Duke. The Blue Devils didn’t just win their football curtain raiser in Wallace Wade Stadium last fall, but kept Cameron Indoor Stadium safe from the Tigers, too.

It’s 2-0 Duke.

"All I know is I'm proud of my team, man," said head coach Jon Scheyer after the game.

The 12th-ranked Blue Devils welcomed Clemson to Durham Saturday afternoon. The whiplash competition left its outcome up in the air until the very end. But Duke pulled through 72-71.

With 2:19 on the clock, Clemson had regained a four-point lead and Clemson center PJ Hall was singing along to the Miley Cyrus song blasting in Cameron Indoor.

The next Duke points got all of Cameron Indoor on its feet, as Jared McCain pushed the ball away from the Tigers and turned a fast-break into a layup.

Would it be enough?

With 19.2 seconds on the clock, Duke trailed by two points. Scheyer called a timeout.

Senior guard Jeremy Roach threw the ball in. Kyle Filipowski found it. He put up a layup, tied the game and then went to the stripe for an and-one. He made it, but there were still 15 seconds to go and Clemson had the ball.

"He had the biggest play of the game, probably," Scheyer said of Filipowski.

Clemson head coach Brad Brownell called his own timeout. Hall drove, Filipowski fouled — and fouled out. Hall stood at the line while the stadium roared louder than ever, and made his first foul shot. He cracked his neck, took a breath and made the second one, too.

Seven seconds, and Tyrese Proctor slammed through the Tigers’ defense like a man on the most important mission of his life until Josh Beadle fouled him. He made his first free-throw, and tied the score.

"I was just talking to myself, knowing I was gonna make both of them," Proctor said.

His second won the game.

"I'm the best free-throw shooter in the country," he said.

"I just told him he got it," Scheyer said. "And he said, 'gotcha Coach.'"

In the 11th minute of the matchup, the Cameron Crazies got a little louder and Duke (15-4, 6-2 in the ACC) got a little tougher. It took its first lead since the beginning of the game with a 3-point show from McCain and Proctor. The latter snatched the ball as the Tigers passed it around the court, sent it down to the other side and then set up an assist for McCain. Clemson then fumbled its possession, so Proctor’s downtown delivery was the next change on the scoreboard.

He clinched another trey three minutes later, and a third mere seconds after that. All of a sudden, Duke had a 29-20 lead on the Tigers (13-6, 3-5), and Brownell needed a timeout.

Duke’s biggest asset in preserving that gap for as long as it did was probably Hall — or, really, the absence of the Hall known in ACC play. The 6-foot-10 South Carolina native, who leads the Tigers in scoring, blocks and steals, simply was not himself Saturday afternoon. He missed shots, he missed rebounds and he didn’t do much in the way of blocking. Filipowski held Hall to just seven points in the first half as he shot 2-for-6 from the field.

When Filipowski picked up his fourth foul midway through the second half, earning a seat on the bench, he left Hall alone with graduate center Ryan Young. Filipowski re-entered the game soon after, but in his absence Hall had, apparently, found his groove. He had 13 points of an eventual 19 at that point and was actively getting in Filipowski’s way.

That’s when a relatively comfortable Duke lead turned into a nail-biter. Clemson took the advantage for the first time since midway through the first half. The lead changed four times in four minutes.

Proctor’s 18 points didn’t quite rival his career-high 24 against Louisville, but they came in style. The Australian point guard went 5-for-10 from the field, 4-for-6 from the arc and 4-for-4 from the stripe. His first shot of the second half went in cleanly, even as he fell backwards on the hardwood after letting it go. He played it all with poise.

"I've really been working on my shooting," Proctor said. "I've been shooting a lot of shots and I think now they're just starting to fall."

The only shooting arm that did better than Proctor’s was McCain’s. The freshman phenom tallied 21 points by the time the final buzzer rang, nine of which came from beyond the arc.

"He knew we had to make a play ... he just had to make it," Scheyer said. "He made two back-to-back steals as a freshman. That's special."

Cameron Indoor was crazy from the start. It took just two-and-a-half minutes for the referees to call a timeout to review a foul call on McCain. It stood, and Clemson took the momentum to hit back-to-back-to-back threes. Scheyer sent captain Roach to check in. 

Despite being a part of warmups, Roach did not start. The senior missed most of the last three games due to a nagging injury that kept him on the bench. His is just the latest in a recent plague of injuries that have kept Duke’s key players — including Mitchell and Proctor — off the court.

While he waited for a break in the game, Roach watched Mitchell hit a triple from the left corner. The 10-5 lead Clemson had quickly accumulated shrank to a two-point difference thanks to the Kansas City. Kan., native knocking down his fourth downtown shot of the season.

While Proctor did his Steph Curry imitation, Mitchell’s tenacity was on full display. In early minutes, the Sunrise Christian product blocked a wicked shot from Beadle and then converted Sean Stewart’s rebound into a basket-drive for two points. When, one possession later, a foul blocked his shot, he made good on both opportunities at the stripe.

"It's hard to scout because you can't really match the physicality that [Clemson's] going to play with. I thought we had great preparation the last few days," Proctor said. "I thought we just came out and played that game. Everyone rebounded, that was the main thing."

When Joseph Girard III made a clean three five minutes into the second half, closing the gap between Duke and Clemson to four points, things got interesting again. Luckily for the Blue Devil faithful, McCain answered immediately — grinning broadly — with a triple of his own. But then Clemson’s Jack Clark scored a three too, and the competition got sharp once more. It stayed that way until Proctor, at the last second, closed the score.

Up next for the Blue Devils is a Monday trip to Blacksburg, Va., to take on Virginia Tech, followed by a weekend date with archrival North Carolina in Chapel Hill.


Sophie Levenson profile
Sophie Levenson | Sports features editor

Sophie Levenson is a Trinity sophomore and sports features editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.

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