Clemson looks to match "best win" vs. Duke
Clemson’s 69-65 overtime win over Georgia Tech in Thursday night’s ACC Tournament second round marked a milestone for the Tigers.
Clemson (20-11) reached the 20-win mark for the 13th time in school history and the first time since the 2010-11 season.
A quick comparison to Duke, which plays the Tigers in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals tonight (9:30 p.m., ESPN/WRAL). The Blue Devils (24-7) have won 20 or more games in 18 consecutive seasons, including 10 30-win seasons and two NCAA championships.
It’s because of all the Duke success that the Tigers’ 72-59 win over the Blue Devils on Jan. 11 at Littlejohn Coliseum means so much to Clemson.
“I think that was probably like our best win so far in the regular season,” Clemson junior guard Demarcus Harrison said. “It was a big conference win for us. But I just think it was big and it was important.”
Clemson coach Brad Brownell said the win showed the players what was possible.
“It was a huge win for us because it gave our guys a bunch of confidence,” Brownell said. “It was early in the ACC season. I think the win reassured our team when we do the things that we need to do and play at a high level, we can play with a lot of teams in this league.”
Clemson dominated Duke inside that day, gaining a 48-30 rebounding edge. That game marked the final time that 7-0 sophomore reserve center Marshall Plumlee didn’t play in a game for the Blue Devils.
“I just think we’ve just got to play with energy,” Harrison said. “And I think that’s what we did the first game that helped us beat them at home. We had a lot of energy that game. I think we outrebounded them and we hustled a lot more than they did.”
Three Clemson players – K.J. McDaniels (24 points, 10 rebounds), Jaron Blossomgame (10 points, 14 rebounds) and Landry Nnoko (10 points, 13 rebounds) – posted double-doubles against Duke.
“Just the fact that it was Duke, it was a great win for us,” McDaniels said Thursday night. “They have top players on their team – Jabari (Parker). Rodney (Hood). It was a great win for us.”
Duke had a hard time scoring in the second half as the Tigers rallied from a nine-point deficit. The Blue Devils made only 8 of 32 shots (25 percent) in the second half, including 3 of 14 (21.4 percent) of their 3-pointers.
“We guarded them well but I think they also missed some shots,” Brownell said. “Uncharacteristically they had some guys who normally make shots who didn’t. Our playing well helped. But it was one of those nights. You are not going to shoot well every night.”
Despite winning, Clemson didn’t shoot very well against Georgia Tech on Thursday night. The Tigers made only 4 of 14 3-pointers in the game and shot a meager 29.7 percent on all shots in the second half.
“We’ll have to play better than we did (against Georgia Tech),” Brownell said of tonight’s game. “We’ll have to play at a high level. We’ll have to get off to a good start. It’s been so long since we’ve played them. Both teams have improved. At that time it was certainly one of our better games. We played very well.”