When the clock struck :00 at Littlejohn and the crowd rose from their seats the energy was palpable even through a screen. Rather than heading for the exits, the masses of students poured onto the court to celebrate as they’d done the unthinkable — Clemson beat No. 3 Duke 79-72. When Clemson beat UNC in Chapel Hill for the first time ever last week it was seen as a bright spot in an spectacularly Brownelly season. Now, the Tigers (9-7, 3-3) are two games over .500, just beat Duke and UNC back-to-back for the first time in 30 years and just picked up a signature win that should look great come tourney time.
Clemson felled Duke thanks to an incredible 30-53 (56.6 percent) night from the floor, led by outstanding performances from Aamir Simms and Tevin Mack. Simms contributed a career-best 25 points on 10-15 from the field to go along with nine rebounds and five assists; Mack added 22 points on 10-14 and nine rebounds of his own. John Newman III joined the duo as the only other Tiger in double figures, scoring 14 on seven shots.
Duke scored the opening points on the games first possession, a Matthew Hurt layup, before doubling the lead to 4-0 on a dunk by freshman star Vernon Carey Jr. Clemson responded in turn with buckets from Simms and Mack to tie the game at four in its early going. From there, both sides battled for the next 10 minutes of gameplay. Neither team led by more than three points until an and-one dunk followed by a triple from Newman gave Clemson a 28-22 lead with 7:52 left in the first half. By halftime, Duke had managed to only cut one point off the lead, and Clemson entered the break up 40-33.
Clemson held the Blue Devils at bay for the beginning of the second-half but soon surrendered the lead on a Tre Jones 3-pointer with just over 10 minutes to go in the second half. Rather than fade away to their more talented opponent, Clemson continued to battle and the teams flipped the lead back-and-forth when an offensive rebound provided them the chance they needed. Newman flipped the ball to Simms, who laid it in giving Clemson a 63-62 lead with under six minutes to play in the game. Simms, Newman and Mack were pivotal down the stretch, scoring every point from that moment on — minus Clyde Trapp’s single free throw which marked the game’s final score. Although it was a tightly contested game, the Tigers fought and earned their win. They led for 28:20 of the game’s 40:00 minutes, and dominated the glass on both ends of the floor.
Let’s watch some highlights.
Will the Tigers keep this up? That’s three big wins a row, but who knows? Frankly, who cares? Enjoy this!
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