The Blue Devils failed to get their first road win of the season and dropped to 1-2 in the ACC with a 72-59 loss at Clemson. The offense went cold and Duke continued to struggle on the inside as Clemson took over in the second half.
Statistically, Clemson came in to the game as one of the best defensive teams in the country, only allowing 53.5 points per game on 36.0 percent shooting, but there were questions as to whether their schedule strength had allowed them to prove how good the defense actually was. On Saturday it was good enough to limit Duke to 59 points and a horrendous 33.9 percent field goal percentage.
Duke played a solid first half. They hit 5 of 11 three pointers and Jabari Parker appeared to break out of his recent slump, hitting back to back three pointers to tally 10 points early in the game. Despite the hot start, Parker went quiet and didn't score for the final 13:52 of the first half. An Amile Jefferson free throw gave the Blue Devils a 37-31 halftime lead.
Rodney Hood opened the second half with a three pointer, but the rest of the game belonged to the Tigers.
Rod Hall scored seven straight points for Clemson, all on layups and a free throw, to pull Clemson within two. Then Tiger big man, Landry Nnoko began to attack Duke on the inside, scoring all 10 of his points in the second half and grabbing 13 rebounds. Duke and Clemson traded baskets over the next couple minutes as Duke held on to a one possession lead until a Jaron Blossomgame three pointer gave Clemson the lead 52-50 with just over nine minutes remaining. Duke responded on a drive and dish from Cook to Parker. Blossomgame hit another three to put Clemson up for good.
Duke were physically outmatched, particularly in the paint. The Tigers grabbed 14 offensive boards and out-rebounded Duke 48-30. Clemson also blocked 7 Blue Devil shot attempts. Duke couldn't counter with outside shooting as they only hit 3 of 14 second half three point attempts. Duke didn't hit a field goal for the final 6:28 of the game and didn't put up much of a fight in the final minutes at an electric, sold out Littlejohn Coliseum.
Hood and Parker were the only Blue Devils to score in double figures, with 20 and 15, respectively. Quinn Cook and Andre Dawkins combine to shoot 4-21 from the field and Rasheed Sulaimon, who started the game and had been a bright spot for Duke recently, only scored 2 points in just 12 minutes of action.
The loss drops Duke to 1-2 in the ACC and leaves the Blue Devils without a road win on the season. Duke's issues so far this season have been well documented, but the loss to Clemson really magnified the problems.
The early season visions of an ACC Championship and a Final Four run seem like ages ago.
The scoring struggles can be seen as an anomaly, but something has to change on the defensive side of the ball. Duke has to find a way to guard on the inside. Whether it is more zone defense or possibly more playing time for Marshall Plumlee, Duke won't be able to survive in the ACC or the NCAA without better play on the defense.
Duke will try to rebound against another tough team. The Blue Devils will host Virginia on Monday night. The Cavaliers are 11-4 and 2-0 in the ACC. They play NC State on Saturday afternoon.