No. 1 Duke pulls away in second half to trounce Clemson

Zion Williamson dunk drives Cameron Indoor Stadium fans crazy

Zion Williamson steals the ball from Clemson and does a 360 degree dunk as the Tigers trail the play
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Zion Williamson steals the ball from Clemson and does a 360 degree dunk as the Tigers trail the play

An alteration to the second-half lineup sparked No. 1 Duke’s game-deciding run against Clemson on Saturday night.

Jack White replaced struggling freshman Cam Reddish and hit a 3-pointer to start a 14-point run as the Blue Devils rolled to a 87-68 ACC win.

In keeping Clemson winless at Cameron Indoor Stadium since 1995, Duke (12-1, 1-0 in ACC) posted its seventh consecutive win.

White, the 6-7 junior forward who has yet to start a game in his career, was the only Duke player to hit a 3-pointer in the first half. He finished with 12 points, six rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals in 26 turnover-free minutes against the Tigers.

Zion Williamson led Duke with 25 points and 10 rebounds as he made nine of 11 shots from the field. One of his baskets came on a dunk that followed a 360-degree mid-air spin, a play that brought the loudest ovation of the night.

Fellow freshman RJ Barrett, the ACC’s leading scorer, added 11 points while junior forward Marques Bolden added 12 for the Blue Devils, who were playing their first game since Dec. 20. Freshman point guard Tre Jones contributed 10 points with a season-high nine assists and zero turnovers.

Clemson (10-4, 0-1 in ACC) hit just 13 of 35 second-half shots (37 percent) to finish at 43 percent for the game. The Tigers turned the ball over 19 times.

Leading 40-33 at halftime, Duke made its first five shots of the second half to fuel a 14-0 run that gave it a comfortable 54-33 lead.

White needed just 17 seconds to make an impact as he hit a 3-pointer.

A Javin DeLaurier steal led to a Barrett 3-pointer at 19:17 to play and the Blue Devils were on their way to an easy win.

Williamson scored the game’s next six points, two baskets after drives in the lane plus two free throws. Barrett’s jump shot at 16:47 put Duke ahead 54-33.

With 12:25 to play, Williamson capped it with a play for the highlight videos. He stole the ball at half court and drove in uncontested, leaping in the lane and spinning 360 degrees before throwing down a powerful one-handed dunk for a 64-40 Duke lead.

The Blue Devils started the game sluggishly offensively, making just 6 of their first 17 shots. Over the game’s first 12 minutes, Duke recorded just one assist.

It’s a good thing the Blue Devils could rely on their stingy defense as Clemson managed just a three-point lead at 18-15. The Tigers were on their way to committing 11 first-half turnovers.

With Williamson and Reddish on the bench with two fouls each, the Blue Devils got things together on offense.

Jump shots by Jones and Barrett, followed by Jones’ pass to Bolden for a dunk with 7:56 to play in the half put Duke up 21-18.

Clemson took its final lead of the half on a Javan White dunk with 6:15 to play that put the Tigers up 24-22.

But Williamson, back in the game with two fouls, took an in-bounds pass from Jones in the lane and scored to tie the game. Bolden’s steal started a fast break that ended when White took a pass from Jones and drilled a 3-pointer from the left corner for a 27-24 Duke lead.

White nailed his third 3-pointer of the half with 4:11 left pushing Duke’s lead to 32-26.

Clemson climbed back within three points at 36-33 when Clyde Trapp scored a layup on a back-door cut at the 1:16 mark.

But Barrett answered with a drive down the lane to score and, after a Clemson miss, Jones passed to DeLaurier in transition for a dunk and a 40-33 lead the Blue Devils took to halftime.

An Illinois native, Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. Prior to his arrival in Durham, he worked for newspapers in Columbia and Spartanburg, S.C., Biloxi, Miss., and Charlotte covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly.