Sophomore guard Luke Kennard had to shake off a poor shooting start so two of No. 14 Duke’s freshmen made up the difference.
Jayson Tatum and Frank Jackson each joined Kennard by scoring 20 points as the fifth-seeded Blue Devils beat 12th-seeded Clemson 79-72 in an ACC tournament second-round game at Barclays Center on Wednesday.
The Blue Devils (24-8) advance to play fourth-seeded Louisville at 2:30 p.m on Thursday in the tournament quarterfinals.
Duke and Louisville met once in the regular season with the Cardinals winning 78-69 at home on Jan. 14.
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Kennard, a first-team all-ACC guard, missed 10 of his first 13 shots. But he made 6 of his final 7, including a pair of jumpers in the final 2:34 that allowed Duke to hold off Clemson.
Duke took control of the game to start the second half as the Blue Devils outscored Clemson 16-2 during one stretch.
Staying away from 3-pointers and looking to score off drives, Duke made five of its first seven shots after halftime
Jackson and Tatum led the way.
After Clemson scored first to take a 35-33 lead, Jackson sank a jump shot and added a 3-pointer on Duke’s next possession to put the Blue Devils in front for good.
The Tigers pulled to within one point on two Shelton Mitchell free throws.
But Amile Jefferson scored inside for Duke to start an 11-0 run. Tatum followed with a one-handed shot in the lane.
Kennard’s steal led to a fast break where he passed the ball to Jackson for a layup.
After Jackson scored in the lane, Tatum added to the outburst with a nifty reverse layup where he drew a foul. Tatum’s free throw put Duke up 49-37 with 14:30 to play.
Duke’s lead remained at 10 points when Jackson sank two free throws with 5:20 left leaving Clemson in a 66-56 hole.
The Tigers made another push, though. A Jaron Blossomgame layup, Mitchell 3-pointer and a an Elijah Thomas shot inside cut Duke’s lead to 69-63.
With 3:19 to play, Kennard fouled Marcquise Reed, who hit two free throws slicing Duke’s lead to 69-65.
After Thomas blocked Tatum’s layup attempt, Reed scored with 2:51 left and was fouled by Tatum. His free throw left Duke with a 69-68 lead.
But Kennard sank a baseline jumper to stop Clemson’s run and after Thomas missed a layup, Jackson drew a foul.
His free throws put Duke in front 73-68 with 1:51 left.
Duke made only 3 of 12 3-pointers in the first half as Kennard, the Blue Devils leading scorer, hit only 1 of 5 and 1 of 9 shots overall.
Duke led by as many as six points early and held a 22-17 lead when Clemson erased that deficit.
After Sidy Djitte made two Clemson free throws, Kennard missed a jump shot on the other end. Allen was called for a foul while attempting to grab the offensive rebound. In frustration, he cursed, grabbed the bouncing basketball and slammed it to the court with both hands.
When he failed to catch the ball on its bounce back up, it bounced away and official Roger Ayers slapped him with a technical foul.
Clemson shot four free throws -- two for the common foul and two for the technical -- to take a 23-22 lead.
The rest of the half, the lead changed hands three more times and there were three more ties, including at 33 to end the half.
Duke had to get hot over the final three minutes to finish at 44.8 percent for the half. The Blue Devils started driving to the basket more, making four of their final five shots of the half.
That proved to be a precursor to their play and success after halftime as they finally pulled away from the Tigers.
Duke has now won at least one ACC tournament game in 18 of the last 20 years.