Duke Survives Clemson

The trip to Clemson is rarely a pleasure for Duke teams, and this year's excursion proved no different.

Before this game, we got a note from a reader who wondered why we kept warning fans not to expect easy victories. Clemson did a better job of explaining why than we ever could.

In a game filled with genuine tension, Clemson pushed their way back into it and threatened to pull an unusual feat: losing to the worst team in the conference by 18 and then upsetting the #1 team in the country.  All this from a team not far from the cellar itself.

In the first half, it was basically a contest between Clemson's muscle and Duke's pressure, both offensive and defensive. Duke pretty much won that, forcing 12 turnovers and outquicking Clemson for the most part. 

At the half, Mike Gminski reckoned that Clemson would have to cut their turnovers by half, and they came close, cutting back to eight.  Duke could have blown the game open but some ill-advised shots and a hot streak by Tony Stockman brought Clemson back into it, and they had the confidence to pull briefly into the lead.  But by then Duke had switched Dahntay Jones onto Stockman, and that was pretty much the end of him. Ed Scott played heroically down the stretch, we thought, and Clemson generally held up pretty well until the last couple of minutes of play and they managed late-game offense nicely. If Duke had missed foul shots, they could  have made a run, but unfortunately for Clemson, that didn't happen: Duke shot nearly 82% from the line.

And actually, for a guy who supposedly can't shoot, Scott shot a lot and well. He's turning into a really good guard.  Stockman is a kid who can dazzle at times as well, and Hobbs is solid. Henderson isn't bad, and McKnight has had some wonderful games for the Tigers. 

Which leads us to the logical question: how can a team that gives Duke fits lose to weak teams like Yale and UNC?

That's the 64 dollar question, and Shyatt will have to answer it by the end of the year, one way or another.

For Duke, Carlos Boozer's recent hot streak was derailed, as the big guy shot poorly, ended up with only 12 points, and just generally seemed off.  Chris Duhon, who has been so excellent lately, had five turnovers - but he hit a late three that Coach K called the shot of the game.  He also had an astonishing (for him) drive and dunk, though it was called back as a foul.  Still, it was so explosive, we thought it was Dahntay Jones at first.

Speaking of Jones, he continues to mold his game to the team's needs, with one glaring exception: he apparently yelled something at the Clemson bench after his alley-oop dunk.  Whatever he said, it enraged Larry Shyatt, who actually charged the floor and somehow avoided a technical. Note to those who see an unfair advantage for Duke: what happened? Normally when a coach charges the court like that, and generally goes berserk, he gets T'd up. No such. Hmmm.

For Dahntay, this is the second time this year that he has done something on the court he shouldn't have - Coach K ripped him for getting cocky at the end of an earlier game, telling him not to ever do that (celebrate/taunt on the court) again.  He has done a brilliant job of finding a niche on this team, and has great improved it. His leadership, we suspect, it also underrated. All the more reason to avoid such behavior in the future.

In general, it was an off night for Duke, and things could have unraveled. But fortunately, they managed to get through a tough night, and as Coach K said afterwards, you can't simulate this kind of game pressure - which is why he left Dunleavy in with four fouls.  Now the rematch with Florida State, which should be interesting.

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