Slow start dooms Tigers in Durham

Slow start dooms Tigers in Durham

DURHAM, (N.C.) - A poor first-half shooting performance proved to be too much for No. 18 Clemson to overcome in Sunday night's 74-53 loss to No. 7 Duke.

Before a capacity crowd, the Tigers shot a woeful 16 percent from the field in the first half, netting just 12 points. Both were one-half lows for Clemson under coach Oliver Purnell.

"They pressure the ball and play kind of a wall around the basket," Purnell said. "If you try to go too early without moving them, their size is waiting for you. They're big, they're long and they contest. You've got to move them around."

Of the 12 points, 10 came in the paint. Noel Johnson hit the only jump shot in the half from the elbow with 2:20 to play. It was also the final made field goal in the first half for Clemson.

Trailing 30-12 at halftime, strangely enough, it took the Tigers just six minutes to surpass the first half total of 12 points. The Blue Devils yielded an 11-0 run to start the half, going three minutes before finally scoring, thanks to a 3-pointer from senior guard Jon Scheyer.

"We obviously stunk it up in the first half with unforced turnovers and non-execution on some stuff," Purnell said.

Clemson trailed 30-23 at the 17:24 mark after Trevor Booker finished a 3-point play the old-fashioned way, hitting the foul-shot on an and-one. It was the closest the Tigers would get in the second half.

Duke would go on a 12-2 run over the next two minutes to pull away.

"Every time we tried to go on a run, they hit a big basket," Booker said.

The second half shooting performance was much better for Clemson--58 percent from the field. Duke's first half output of 39 percent improved to 60 percent in the second half. On the game, the Tigers shot 33 percent from the field, 18 percent from behind the arc and 75 percent from the free-throw line.

The Blue Devils finished at a 50 percent clip from the field, 33 percent from 3-point land and 80 percent from the free-throw line.

It was Duke's big three who scored the lion's share of the points. Scheyer and junior guard Nolan Smith both scored 22 and junior forward Kyle Singler had 16. The other six who saw the floor for Duke combined to score 14.

"They understand who they are and who their three scorers are. They play catch," Purnell said. "The other guys know they roles, set screens, rebound, defend with toughness. The other three play catch."

Establishing the inside-out approach on the offensive end in the second half allowed for Clemson to have more success in scoring. Booker and Jerai Grant finished with 10 and 11 points, respectively.

"That's how we have to play in half-court execution to be good. If you don't do that, you're going to see an atrocious half like we had," Purnell said.

Booker said the Duke defense did well in denying him the ball in both halves, not just the first.

"I think that was their game plan, to limit my touches, and make other people score," he said. "They did a pretty good job of it."

When he was able to get the ball in the low post, two and three players were collapsing on him, making it difficult for him to get clean looks at the bucket. In the first half, Singler offered with some help-side defense and blocked a shot.

After putting the shot into the stands, he offered a few words to Booker.

"He just told me, ‘Get it out of here.' I still got him on SportsCenter, so it's all good," Booker said.

In the second half, he missed a one-handed dunk, ushering in jeers for the rest of the game from the Cameron Crazies.

"I should have had him again tonight. Best believe I'll get him back at my place," Booker said.

Demontez Stitt, who had a team-high 17 points, offers the same sentiment towards Duke when the Blue Devils visit Littlejohn Coliseum later this month.

"Of course, we're going to remember this loss," he said. "They've got to come back to us."

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