By Justin Mathis
CLEMSON, S.C. – With seven minutes and six seconds left in regulation, Clemson had fallen behind by ten points, 57-47, against 12th-ranked Duke. After a David Skara layup helped the Tigers pull even at 57 with 2:03 remaining, Clemson appeared to have pried the proverbial window of opportunity back open. Moments later, Duke promptly slammed it shut for good.
An off day from the perimeter, along with a late defensive miscue, spelled trouble for the Tigers, as they fell to Duke 66-57 in front of a sellout crowd inside Littlejohn Coliseum. The loss gives Clemson its first home loss and marks consecutive losses for the first time during the Tigers’ 2017-18 campaign.
Both teams were missing key cogs, as Clemson, already missing Donte Grantham for the season (knee), had to play without point guard Shelton Mitchell (concussion protocol), while Duke’s Marvin Bagley III missed his third straight game with a knee sprain.
Clemson found a bit of early success from the perimeter, as Aamir Simms and Mark Donnal each hit three-pointers to put the Tigers ahead 6-0 less than four minutes into the game. From that point forward, the Tigers struggled to connect from distance.
A large part of that was due to the shooting woes that Marcquise Reed and Gabe DeVoe dealt with. The backcourt tandem combined to go 4-for-24 from the field, including a 2-for-14 mark from the arc, for 16 points. As a team, Clemson only hit five of their 20 attempts from distance.
“That was a really tough ACC game,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Our main attention was on DeVoe and Reed. It sometimes left other people open… they’re right at the top of the scouting report. You go, ‘DeVoe, Reed, DeVoe, Reed, DeVoe, Reed’ – make sure you know where those guys are. He [DeVoe] missed a couple. He’s been so good. He doesn’t hit a shot and then hits the biggest shot of the game [with 2:54 left]. We feel fortunate he didn’t have the shooting afternoon he normally does. Our goal was to minimize the threes, especially from those two kids.”
(video by Justin Mathis)
On the ensuing Blue Devil possession following Skara’s layup, Clemson’s Scott Spencer fouled Gary Trent Jr., who shot a three from the corner in front of the Blue Devil bench. Trent knocked down all three free throw attempts, which put Duke back ahead 60-57 with 1:33 left in the contest.
“(It was) a really competitive basketball game,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell stated. “We just have to play better basketball. We just had too many costly mistakes, whether it was turnovers on inbounds plays or fouling three point shooters. Obviously, that was a huge play at the end of the game. We’ve got all the momentum and a 10-0 run to tie it at 57, then you don’t make them make a basket. It just changes the whole outlook of the game. Those kinds of plays are the ones that are disappointing. Give Duke a lot of credit… they competed hard, played well, and made a couple more plays down the stretch than we did.”
(video by Justin Mathis)
The Blue Devils closed out the game with a 9-0 run, with seven of those points coming from the charity stripe. Grayson Allen led the way with a game-high 19 points, while Wendell Carter Jr. also finished in double figures with 15 points, followed by Trevon Duval (12) and Gary Trent Jr (11).
The Tigers were led by Marcquise Reed and Elijah Thomas, who each scored a team-high 13 points. Thomas notched the ninth double-double of his career by also grabbing 10 rebounds. Aamir Simms and Mark Donnal also tallied double digit totals with 10 points apiece.
Duke (22-5, 10-4 ACC) will return home to face Louisville on Wednesday, February 21st at 9 PM, while Clemson (20-6, 9-5) will visit Virginia Tech on Wednesday night at 7 PM.