Unable to avenge the 74-53 loss from 20 days ago, Clemson dropped to 15-5 overall (3-3 in ACC) and Duke improved to 16-3 overall (4-2 in ACC).
After the game, Demontez Stitt admitted his foot was in a lot of pain. So much so that he might have to take a night off to allow for some healing.
"Me, individually, I've just got to get healthy again," he said.
Stitt finished with 10 points and three assists.
The foot wasn’t much of a burden heading into halftime. During the break, it began to tighten and he wasn’t quite the same in the second half.
“Making those sharp cuts that I make, those quick moves that I make, it’s really killing me,” Stitt said. “I can’t do it right now.”
Clemson’s high energy, up-and-down the court running attack was rather pedestrian against Duke, again.
Especially when you consider Trevor Booker’s 10 field goals was better than the other eight the rest of his team combined to make. He finished with a team-high 22 points and seven rebounds.
The Blue Devils’ defense that limited the Tigers’ offensive production. Clemson shot 38 percent from the field and 15 percent from behind the 3-point line.
“I give Duke all the credit in the world for their defense. I thought they were really good defensively throughout the course of the ball game,” said head coach Oliver Purnell. “I didn’t like our approach offensively early on.
“There were stretches where we went through tough dry spots because we weren’t attacking the way that I thought we needed to, which is to spread them with long ball screens, as opposed to one or two passes and trying to penetrate early into the trees.”
At one point in the first half, Clemson went nearly six minutes without a field goal. During that stretch, the Tigers needed over four minutes to score any points, those came on a pair of David Potter free throws. Duke managed to score just seven points of their own during Clemson's field goalless drought.
Duke jumped out to a quick start after halftime, scoring the first six points while taking a 29-23 lead.
“The beginning of the second half was certainly the critical period for us…that was really the working margin we had,” Purnell said.
With 11:44 left in the game, Duke had extended the score to 43-30, thanks to a 20-7 run. Clemson responded with a 7-0 run of their own, started by three-straight rebounds from Milton Jennings on the defensive end.
“I thought Milton Jennings did a really good job on the boards getting us some possession to really make a run, but we weren’t able to convert enough of those in order to get it close enough that the crowd becomes a factor and fatigue becomes a factor,” Purnell said.
With the deficit cut to 43-37 at the 9:47 mark, Clemson scored just 10 points the rest of the way.
Purnell was pleased with the first half output on the defensive end. The Tigers forced 11 turnovers and scored 12 points off them. In the second half, Duke turned the ball over just twice. He believes the way the Blue Devils handled the press was probably the best he’s seen from an opponent in Littlejohn.
“Our defense certainly wasn’t terrible, with the exception of the job we did on Nolan Smith. He was really good,” Purnell said.
“I give them an awful lot of credit. To go on the road, handle our pressure…and doing what they needed to do to win,” Purnell said.