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Duke Blows Clemson Out For Most Impressive Win Of The Season

A dominant and imposing performance by the Blue Devils

Duke v Louisville
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - JANUARY 23: Mike Krzyzewski the head coach of the Duke Blue Devils gives instructions to his team against the Louisville Cardinals at KFC YUM! Center on January 23, 2021 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Clemson hasn’t defeated Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium since that infamous 1995 season. Many observers thought this might be the year the streak ended. After all, the Tigers were coming into Durham fresh off an impressive win over Louisville.

The upset never came close to becoming a reality. Duke took charge early and played its most complete game of the season, winning 79-53.

The win was Duke’s second straight, pushing Duke to 5-3 in the ACC, 7-5 overall. A two-game winning streak doesn’t seem like much by Duke standards but the program seems to be in much better shape than it was a week ago. D.J. Steward called the game a “launching pad” for the rest of the season.

“We played really good defensively, we shared the ball, five guys in double figures, a lot of assists.” That was Mike Krzyzewski’s summary and it’s one that checks a lot of boxes.

Duke never trailed and it was tied only once, at 2-2. Clemson can be offensively challenged against good defenses and Duke was really good on defense; “locked in” was the term Steward used. Duke forced turnovers and tough shots, didn’t allow many second-chance opportunities and largely kept Clemson off the line.

After that 2-2 tie Clemson missed their next five shots and Duke began to get some separation, extending the lead to 9-2.

Still, Clemson was controlling the tempo, lulling Duke into walking the ball up court after grabbing a defensive rebound or forcing a turnover.

Steward said Krzyzewski told Duke to start pushing the ball when the opportunity presented itself. Shortly afterwards Jalen Johnson converted a steal into a monster dunk and subsequent and-one-foul shot.

The three-point play made it 12-5 and Duke was off to the races.

“Crazy,” Mark Williams called the dunk, repeating the word twice before adding some detail.

“It went in and everybody went crazy, everybody on the bench, everybody on the court.”

Williams got a dunk, Joey Baker hit a 3-pointer and it was 17-5.

The Tigers put together a 5-0 run to make it 27-16. But Duke closed the half on a 14-6 run and took a 41-22 lead into intermission.

It got better. A young team with a 19-point lead at the half can assume the game is over and come out flat.

The exact opposite happened. Steward said Krzyzewski emphasized keeping the pressure on.

“The start of the second half we played like a veteran team,” Krzyzewski said “not allowing the big lead to determine how hard or how well we would play.”

Duke scored the first 11 points of the second half. Brad Brownell was forced to call a timeout less than two minutes into the second half but he didn’t have anything in his bag-of-tricks to slow down the Blue Devils. Duke’s biggest lead was 35 points, at 69-34 and Clemson never really chipped away at their huge deficit.

Duke did all this without a great game from any one player but with very good games from a lot of players. Matt Hurt had 13 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists. Johnson had 9 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. Steward had 11 points. But Wendell Moore hit a trio of three-pointers on the way to an 11-point game, Jeremy Roach had 12 points after going scoreless his previous two games. Joey Baker hit two 3-pointers, his first game this season with more than one 3-pointer.

And then there’s Mark Williams. A week ago the seven-foot freshman was an afterthought, a project.

Now, he could be the key to Duke’s season. Williams gave Duke 11 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks in 14 minutes.

“It took him a while to learn that college basketball is about physicality wise,” Krzyzewski said. “In the last week or so, maybe 10 days, he’s really got a good understanding of that.”

Williams sees his role expanding as he continues to mature.

“Being physical, knowing angles, stuff like that. My teammates are finding me in the right spots. . . . Offensively, I think[my role] is finishing around the rim, grabbing offensive boards, tip-outs, extra possessions. Defensively, protecting the rim.”

A quick turnaround, Miami next on Monday night, a chance to extend that winning streak and keep growing.

“We’re just putting this team together,” Krzyzewski summed up. “There’s more. There’s just more.”

NOTES

Duke had 20 assists against 9 turnovers, while going to the line 17 times. Clemson had 13 turnovers and got to the line 11 times. And Duke outrebounded Clemson 40-34. Combine those with the fast starts in both halves and Duke seems to have addressed a lot of the problems that cropped up earlier in the season and led to a three-game losing streak.

Walk-on Mike Buckmire got Duke’s final points, his first points of the season, on an offensive rebound. Buckmire now has seven career points.

Poll

Player Of The Game vs. Clemson

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    Jalen Johnson
    (49 votes)
  • 2%
    Wendell Moore
    (11 votes)
  • 4%
    Matthew Hurt
    (19 votes)
  • 5%
    DJ Steward
    (22 votes)
  • 5%
    Jordan Goldwire
    (21 votes)
  • 0%
    Henry Coleman
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Jaemyn Brakefield
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Patrick Tapé
    (1 vote)
  • 62%
    Mark Williams
    (237 votes)
  • 1%
    Jeremy Roach
    (6 votes)
  • 3%
    Mike Buckmire
    (13 votes)
382 votes total Vote Now