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Tigers Take A Bite Out Of Duke, 68-63

Not a big surprise after Duke developed foul trouble.

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Jan 13, 2016; Greenville, SC, USA; The Duke Blue Devils react after a timeout in the second half against the Clemson Tigers at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. The Tigers won 68-63.
Jan 13, 2016; Greenville, SC, USA; The Duke Blue Devils react after a timeout in the second half against the Clemson Tigers at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. The Tigers won 68-63.
Dawson Powers-USA TODAY Sports

After Duke's Brandon Ingram and Marshall Plumlee got in serious foul trouble, it would've taken nearly a perfect effort from Duke to beat Clemson. Duke got a solid effort, but not enough.

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The game turned on two plays really: Brandon Ingram picked up a foolish foul with less than two seconds to go in the first half. It was his third. He picked up his fourth at the 13:21 mark in the second half.  That wouldn't have been nearly as critical as it was if it had just been his third.

And the other turning point was Marshall Plumlee's fourth 10:27 into the second half. At the time, Duke had an eight point lead. Less than a minute later, it was a three point lead.

The dye was cast.

Duke simply doesn't have enough depth to have two inside players in trouble, and in the case of Ingram, we use the word inside loosely.

Ingram is a very thin perimeter player who has played credibly inside with Amile Jefferson out, but Clemson is not a great place for a thin player to visit.

It never has been really. When Tree Rollins was there, he was very physical and intimidating. Under Cliff Ellis, Clemson had a number of big, rough tough guys to deal with. Rick Barnes had the Slab Five (his career team template really) and Larry Shyatt had tough defensive teams.

Duke's greatest team was the 1992 team which won a second consecutive national championship.

Clemson had them down by about 20 at Clemson before Duke came back.

We can't remember anyone else being up by 20 on that team.

So it is with Brad Brownell. From KJ McDaniels to Landry Nnoko, Sidy Djitte, Donte Grantham and Jaron Blossomgame, he's had his share of guys who can punish you.

And when Ingram picked up his third, he had fifteen points. He finished with 16. When Plumlee went out too, Duke was basically done.

Speaking of thin players, at 240, Chase Jeter isn't exactly thin, but he's not strong enough to assert himself yet either. Jeter is the one guy who might've helped Duke out inside but he picked up five fouls in four minutes.

Add all that up and a certain amount of lost composure in the closing minutes and the result was inevitable.

And none of that is to take away from Clemson. No one had the Tigers down as a top flight ACC team in the pre-season, but here they are in third place, ahead of Duke, Louisville, Virginia, Notre Dame and Syracuse.

Clemson has back-to-back wins over Louisville and Duke.

The Tigers face three straight - well five straight counting Louisville and Duke - Top Twenty opponents. They get Miami at home, then a trip to Virginia for the annual sumo match, followed by a visit from Pitt.

There's no NCAA bid yet, but increasingly, Clemson is making an argument.

As for Duke, until Amile Jefferson returns, and even then to an extent, we can expect nights like this. Some will be like Wake Forest and some like this game. When you only have six reliable players you just have to accept that.

We're sure that Jeter is going to become an important contributor. It's not his fault that he's 7-0 and not strong enough to push back inside. He'll get stronger and he'll learn to be smarter on defense too. But probably not by the time Duke plays Notre Dame Saturday.