The stakes were pretty high leading up to Duke’s game against Clemson on Sunday at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Winner would have sole possession of second place in the ACC standings. Loser would fall half a game behind North Carolina for fourth place. So on Sunday, both teams battled. And in the end, while it wasn’t pretty, Duke came out on top 66-57.
Senior guard Grayson Allen led Duke with 19 points. Freshman point guard Trevon Duval was also a key player for Duke. He finished with 12 points, and made some big buckets down the stretch. But his biggest impact was on the defensive end. He had four steals, a few that led to easy points.
Both teams were without key players on Sunday.
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Clemson (20-6, 9-5 ACC) lost its second leading scorer Donte Grantham to an ACL injury on Jan. 20. And Clemson also played without Shelton Mitchell (11.8 ppg, 3.8 apg), its best passer, who is in concussion protocol after he took an elbow to the head Wednesday against Florida State.
Duke (22-5, 10-4 ACC) was without freshman star Marvin Bagley III for the third straight game. Bagley suffered a mild knee sprain in the first half of Duke’s 82-78 loss to North Carolina. Bagley averages 21.2 points and 11.4 rebounds per game, which leads the ACC in both categories.
The loss of key players showed for both teams. It was a struggle for either to get easy baskets. Duke’s zone defense forced Clemson’s offense to take long shots. And Clemson’s man-to-man defense bottled up two of Duke’s top scorers early on.
In the first half, freshman forward Wendell Carter Jr. (14.4 ppg) and freshman guard Gary Trent Jr. (15.2 ppg) scored two and three points respectively. They combined to shoot 1-for-11 from the field.
As a result, Allen had to carry the load. He scored 17 of Duke’s 35 first half points.
The stats for both teams were pretty even, and the game remained close.
Clemson junior forward David Skara hit a layup with about two minutes left to tie the game at 57. On Duke’s next possession, Gary Trent Jr. was fouled while shooting a three-pointer. He made all three free throws.
Clemson failed to answer on its next possession, and Duke’s Carter made a layup at the other end to put Duke up by five points. That bucket was just enough for Duke to secure the win.