Duke dropped its third game of the season against an amped up Clemson Tigers team hungry for its second win against a ranked team in a row after taking down Louisville just days earlier. Duke had difficulty matching the energy level of the Tigers who wore down the young Devils and made plays in the critical moments of the second half.
Duke held the lead in the second half actually increasing it from 2 to 8, before Clemson went on a 10-2 run to take the lead and eventually win the game 68-63.
Duke was led in scoring by Grayson Allen who scored 17 points in the game, and Brandon Ingram who scored 16. The only other double figure scorer for Duke was Luke Kennard who scored 10.
Clemson despite missing a good amount of point-blank shots never allowed their energy to wane in the second half. They manhandled Duke on the boards to the tune of a 36-24 advantage and defended the Devils well and unlike most teams this season kept Duke off of the free-throw line. While Clemson had a lot to do with Duke losing this game Duke fell into a lot of the same bad habits that they’ve gotten away with against some lesser teams. It’s very hard to criticize effort, it’s a slippery slope and honestly part of the issue that Duke could be having is due to tired legs but on several plays Duke did not get back in transition, on at least one occasion in the second half 4 Clemson players trailed a missed lay-up and only 2 blue jerseys were there. It seems as if Duke wore down. Rebounding wise Duke is not boxing out effectively and as guards tend to do, there was a lot of ball watching as opposed to laying a body on opposing players. Duke also turned the ball over more than its average a lot of those turnovers were unforced errors on player to player miscues or fumbling passes. Duke can ill-afford to make errors like this, especially in ACC play in the second half of close games, there is very little margin for error with a team this young and this thin up front.
Foul trouble hampered Duke in this game as well with both Marshall Plumlee and Brandon Ingram saddled with 4 for a good portion of the second half. Without a reliable set of inside subs teams will look to exploit this weakness going forward with the blueprint laid out by Clemson. There is no timetable for the return of senior PF Amile Jefferson so Duke will have to find a way to keep working with Jeter as the only big off the bench. It’s hard to say whether its due to injury or coaches not liking what they are seeing from reserves Sean Obi and Antonio Vrankovic but as of lately Duke has been only playing for the most part 7 players and Jeter as that 7th player was only able to garner 4 minutes of action where he fouled out with just 1 rebound and no points.
Duke went to a zone in the second half to protect Ingram and Plumlee who were hampered with foul trouble. Several times within the zone Duke players were screened off which led to open shots, an on the back-end of the zone Duke did not execute well and Clemson forwards were able to drift behind it.
Duke will have a lot to look at as far as what went wrong, but defending without fouling and rebounding position have to be paramount going forward.