It took Duke about 10 minutes into Saturday’s game against Clemson to shake off the post-exam offensive rust.
When that happened, its was lights out. Trailing 24-22, Duke closed the first half with a 18-9 run that so rattled the visitors they were called for a 10 second-violation late in the half when Duke wasn’t even pressing.
Duke took a precarious 40-33 lead into the locker room.
Still a game.
But the Blue Devils scored the first 14 points of the second half and never let Clemson back into the contest.
The final was 87-68, moving Duke to 12-1 overall and dropping Clemson to 10-4.
It was the ACC opener for both teams.
R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish combined for four first-half points, all by Barrett. But Duke’s defense kept Clemson from getting any separation until the cavalry arrived, the cavalry being junior reserves Jack White and Marques Bolden.
And Tre Jones. He never goes away.
Just ask Brad Brownell.
“Jones is obviously a factor on the ball,” the veteran Clemson coach says. “He’s a good individual defender.”
Clemson started four grad students or fifth-year seniors and they aren’t shy about contact. Brownell said his team’s physicality was “non-existent,” an assertion disputed by the Duke team.
But nothing intimidated Duke physically. The Blue Devils out-rebounded Clemson 40-36 and forced 19 turnovers, with 13 steals.
“We’re playing good defense,” Mike Krzyzewski says. “Tre was all over the place, back-tapping, diving for balls. Guys are playing hard. If you play hard, with the athletic ability we have, you’re going to play good defense. We want to play good defense.”
The game was tied five times early and neither team led by more than three points until a White 3-pointer and a Bolden layup put Duke up 34-26.
It was fitting that the duo hit the breakaway shots. White came off the bench to hit a trio of first-half triples, while Bolden gave Duke seven points and four rebounds in the first half.
“We knew that they had older guys, big-size guys,” Bolden says. “So we had to come out and play hard. Just be aggressive and be myself. My teammates trust me and that’s all I need to have confidence.”
Javin DeLaurier agrees. “We really have full confidence that someone is going to step up. For us, it was nothing to worry about. We did a really good job of coming out and being prepared for that [physical play] and I think we did a pretty job of taking them out of their game plan.”
It got away from Clemson early in the second half. White hit a 3, Barrett hit another, Williamson scored in transition. It took Duke all of 3:13 to score those 14 points.
After that, Brownell said of his team “we just gave in.”
Williamson had perhaps his most spectacular dunk of the season, a reverse breakaway that made it 64-40 and was the talk of the town.
But Williamson also danced and muscled and finessed his way inside, and out. He led everyone with 25 points and 10 rebounds in only 22 minutes, hitting 9-of-11 from the field and 6-of-9 from the line. He even drained a 3.
Duke’s biggest lead was 73-45.
Barrett added 13 points and nine rebounds, White 12 and six, Bolden 11 and five.
Barrett added four assists and Mike Krzyzewski complimented his overall floor game.
At one point, spanning both halves, Duke outscored Clemson 51-21. The Tigers had only nine second-half points in the first 9:59.
Brownell said his team didn’t run the stuff it had worked on in practice but added that Duke had something to do with that.
“The start of the second half was the turning point of the game,” Krzyzewski said. “We put a little thing in to get us a little movement and our defense got us offense.”
And Jones again made the case that he might be the team’s most valuable player, with nine assists, no turnovers, a couple of rebounds, and a steal.
In true point-guard style, Jones credits his teammates for his good play.
Duke’s had lots of great finishers over the years. But Jones now has 76 assists, against 13 turnovers. And those great finishers credit Jones with a lot of their success.
His nine assists were a career high.
The road calls, at Wake Forest Tuesday night, at Florida State Saturday afternoon.
Cameron Reddish again struggled, four points, six turnovers, four fouls. Krzyzewski mentioned avoiding bad, early fouls and needing to get stronger as keys to Reddish emerging from his funk.
White started the second half instead of Reddish and it’s hard to argue with a stat-stuffing line like 12 points, six rebounds, two blocks and two steals in 29 minutes.
Only Jones and Barrett saw more time.
Javin DeLaurier made his only two field-goal attempts, bringing his season mark to 27-for-31.
That’s 87 percent.
He’s made 16 straight, four shy of the ACC and Duke record, held by Alaa Abdelnaby.
- No. 1 Duke pulls away in second half to trounce Clemson
- Jack White’s play helps Duke thrive while Cam Reddish slumps. But Coach K still believes in the freshman.
- For Clemson, Zion Williamson is only what might have been. Duke remains happy with what is.
- Duke men’s basketball crushes Clemson as Jack White provides another much-needed spark
- MBB: Coach K Postgame Press Conference - Clemson
- MBB: Clemson Postgame Press Conference
- MBB: Top 5 Plays - Clemson
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