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DevilsIllustrated – Duke routs Clemson 79-53

Duke’s upside was on full display Saturday with a dominating 79-53 victory over the Clemson Tigers at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The Blue Devils and Tigers got off to a rather slow start, with the home team scoring just 14 points over the first 10 minutes of the game. During that same stretch, the Tigers managed just five points.

Most attributed the slow start to Clemson controlling the pace, and using tough defense to dictate game movement. Though the Tigers struggled defensively in three of their last four games, they still ranked second in the league in defensive scoring.

So the thought of Clemson controlling the pace is not out of the ordinary.

“We were getting stops really early, we were getting defensive rebounds and boxing out,” DJ Steward said. “We were pushing the ball up very slow and we went into a timeout, Coach K, he told us, get the rebound and get out, and the bigs have to run with us. They can’t be lagging behind. I feel like the bigs ran the floor really well tonight so it really opened up.”

Duke responded to Mike Krzyzewski’s message, and turned the switch on over the last 9:58 of the opening half. Over that stretch, Duke scored 27 points, and ultimately outscored the Tigers 41-22 in the first 20 minutes.

After the explosive showing in the first half, the concern was how Duke would come out of the halftime break. For the first time this season, the Blue Devils had a significant lead going into the half. And for a young and experienced team, that is a test in its own right.

Jalen Johnson finished with 9 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Jalen Johnson finished with 9 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists. (Natalie Ledonne/Duke Athletics)

Compound that with the team opposite of them being pretty good – one that defeated AP Top 10 Alabama, and the ACC’s leader Florida State among others – and there’s expectation that a run is in the cards somewhere for the visitors.

Ultimately, Duke passed that test and made in some ways a quantum leap in how they play out of half.

It took just 11 seconds for Duke to score its first basket of the half, a 3-pointer from DJ Steward, who served as one of five players to score in double digits with 11 points. The Blue Devils didn’t let up at all, connecting on two more 3-pointers and a Steward dunk to go on an 11-0 run over the first 2:41 of the half.

After that stretch, this game was over, and Duke never let up, leading the Tigers by as many as 35 points in the second half.

“We had a big lead going into halftime, but Coach said stay hungry,” Steward noted. “He said, don’t be happy and content. We always say, our first four minutes got to be the best at the beginning of the game, and coming out in the second half, so I feel like we really executed in the second half coming out so that was great for us.”

Krzyzewski also noted Duke’s play out of the break as a key component to the team’s success.

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

Jeremy Roach scored 12 points and handed out three assists.
Jeremy Roach scored 12 points and handed out three assists. (Natalie Ledonne/Duke Athletics)

The performance represents Duke’s best showing all season long, highlighted by an offense that took another huge step forward. The offensive success wasn’t so much about shooting percentages or total points, but rather how the points were accumulated.

Duke’s balance, spacing and ball movement resulted in one of the more complete efforts of the year. The Blue Devils posted 20 assists on 28 made baskets. Two Blue Devils, Jalen Johnson and Jordan Goldwire recorded five assists, while three others, Matthew Hurt, Jeremy Roach and Steward had three apiece.

The team’s flow was as smooth, comfortable and confident as we’ve seen all season long. No one looked out of place. No one tried to play outside of their role.

As previously mentioned, five players reached double figures for Duke with Hurt’s 13 points leading the way. Roach posted 12 points, while Wendell Moore Jr, Mark Williams and Steward all added 11 points. Johnson just missed becoming the sixth Blue Devil to reach double figures with nine points, two of which came on a monster dunk in the first half over Clemson’s PJ Hall that helped ignite the team.

“I knew after that we were going to keep continuing to play our butts off,” Steward said of the dunk’s impact on the game. “And then just how that energy rolled over. It was just really great for us. It was great for us.”

Defensively, Duke held Clemson to just 35.1% from the floor and 23.8% from 3-point range. More importantly, the Blue Devils turned Clemson over 13 times and converted those mistakes into 25 points. On the opposite end, Duke turned the ball over just nine times, resulting in only six Clemson points.

Mark Williams finished with 11 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks in just 14 minutes of action.
Mark Williams finished with 11 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks in just 14 minutes of action. (Natalie Ledonne/Duke Athletics)

Aside from the overall effort, Duke was hugely impacted by the continued emergence of Williams, who played a career-high 14 minutes and posted a career-high 11 points. He also pulled down five rebounds and blocked two shots. What the stat sheet doesn’t show is all the tip-outs that led to Duke offensive rebounds and the shots he altered along the way.

“He protects the basket like no other,” Steward noted. “He’s just getting into the lane. You just throw the ball up, he’ll catch it and dunk it. It’s really easy for him. He’s an easy target, so it’s really good for us guards.”

Krzyzewski also noted the difficult matchups in which Williams has faced and overcome in the last two games.

“Defensively, he’s had two tough matchups,” he said. “(Aamir) Simms is a real tough matchup, he’s not a traditional center. He’s like a point center. And (Moses) Wright from Georgia Tech plays away from the basket at the elbow a lot. So that’s the other thing, moving your feet. And he’s done a good job with it.”

The performance as whole serves as a blueprint for the team in how they can continuing growing, as well of an example for the rest of the ACC at how good this Duke team can ultimately become.

Krzyzewski views this as progression and something that’s carried over from previous games, and hard work in practice.

“In the three loses we were in position to win,” Krzyzewski said. “At certain moments, 55-55 against Virginia Tech, and three straight exchanges where we were horrible offensively and it hurt us. Against Pitt it’s a one possession game. Against Louisville we took another bit more of a step up, and played well enough to be deserving of winning. It wasn’t like you messed up, you just missed.

We’re not this outstanding team. We’re a good team with great kids who are trying to get through this whole thing without the experience of a fall and non-conference, exhibition … a younger team is going to take longer during this time, and they may never develop because you could lose confidence. But our guys have been working hard and hopefully we can continue that against Miami.”

Steward agrees, but views this win as an opportunity to show the league what it’s capable of doing.

“This is definitely our launching pad. I feel like this is a great win for us, that’s a really good team in Clemson, so we’ve just got to continue. We can’t go to Miami and not play hard and be aggressive and do what we did today. We’ve just got to keep it going.”


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Scoop Sky is a blog with all the enjoyable information on many subjects, including fitness and health, technology, fashion, entertainment, dating and relationships, beauty and make-up, sports and many more.

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