Clemson was hungry, but Luke Kennard had a much bigger appetite on Saturday.
As he had in big moments all season, the Duke sophomore put the Blue Devils on his back.
From a jumper with 12:16 left in the game to a free throw with 4:42 showing, Kennard scored 15 straight points to help No. 18 Duke survive the Tigers, 64-62.
“Luke is such a gifted offensive player, and he’s good with the ball,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said about the guard who scored 25 points on 7-of-16 shooting.
Kennard led Duke (20-5, 8-4 ACC) in scoring for the 11th time this season.
Saturday’s close game, which came down to Shelton Mitchell trying to throw up a shot in the final seconds, was not the first time Kennard carried Duke in a time of need.
His 3-pointer to win against Wake Forest sustained momentum for the Notre Dame game, which was one of the Blue Devils’ best wins of the year.
Wake Forest marked Duke’s first road win of the year, and it was a significant turning point in the season. The Clemson victory followed up a key win over UNC from Thursday.
With just six games left in the regular season, Kennard pulled the Blue Devils closer to ACC contention.
Clemson (13-11, 3-9) captured its first lead of the second half at the 10-minute mark on a steal and dunk by Marcquise Reed for a 45-44 advantage.
Kennard responded with a 3-pointer, but Clemson tied it.
While Duke’s freshmen had impressive outings against North Carolina, Saturday was the veterans’ turns.
Senior guard Matt Jones picked up a steal with 5:53 left, when Duke was up 50-47. Kennard drove the lane for the basket.
Kennard nailed all seven of his free throws late in the second half, going 7-of-9 from the line. He missed one at 7:51, and graduate student forward Amile Jefferson (six points, nine rebounds) told him, “You’re OK. You’re OK.”
Kennard’s final two with 43 seconds left broke up a two-point game after drawing contact from Donte Grantham in the double bonus.
“He’s always finding ways to get to the free-throw line, get his shot off,” Jefferson said about Kennard. “He’s just a dynamic player. He plays with an edge. When our spacing is good, he’s really good because he can operate, and he works off that pivot foot better than anyone in the country.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan