The Blue Devils (15-2, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) overcame a sluggish start to pull away from the Tigers (9-8, 1-2) even though scoring leader Austin Rivers finished with 4 points, more than 10 fewer than his average.
Duke had to overcome a late rally by Clemson, which cut a 13-point lead to 68-64 in the final minute on two 3-pointers by Andre Young. But Dawkins made three foul shots down the stretch as the Blue Devils beat Clemson for the 26th time in the last 28 meetings.
Duke looked as if it had put the game out of reach when it opened the second half on a 14-7 run. Quinn Cook had a jumper and a 3-pointer and Seth Curry added a bucket. Miles Plumlee put back his brother Mason's miss for two more points. By the time Dawkins connected with his third 3-pointer of the game, the Blue Devils were ahead 46-33.
The Blue Devils were still in front by 10 points on Rivers' layup less with less than seven minutes to go when Clemson put on a final charge. Andre Young hit a 3-pointer and K.J. McDaniel a basket to cut the lead to 65-61.
After Dawkins answered with his final three, Young came back with another long-range shot to bring the Tigers within four one last time. That's when Dawkins extended the margin with his foul shots and Clemson could not respond. Mason Plumlee scored 12 points and Cook had 10 for the Blue Devils.
Clemson drew a large crowd to Littlejohn Coliseum, partly because of last week's 20-point win over Florida State in the ACC opener and partly because of the football team's visiting recruits.
Duke gutted out a 61-58 win over No. 16 Virginia on Thursday night and was prepared for a similar struggle at Littlejohn Coliseum. The Blue Devils came in having won 10 of their past 11 games at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was so upset after Tanner Smith's unchallenged drive to the hoop, he called timeout less than two minutes in and replaced his five starters. Clemson's lead eventually reached 16-7 on Devin Coleman's foul shot with 11:46 to go in the half.
That's when Duke began to find its offense. Ryan Kelly scored five points in a two minute span to draw the Blue Devils to 18-14. Mason Plumlee's three-point play with 5:29 left gave Duke its first lead of the game, 21-20. Seth Curry followed with a high-arcing three over Clemson's 7-foot-2 center Catalin Baciu. Andre Dawkins closed the half with eight straight points and Duke took a 32-28 lead into the break.