Duke Now

Duke beats Clemson in a nail-biter, grabs sole possession of second place in the ACC

Grayson Allen says this might have been Duke's biggest win

Duke senior guard Grayson Allen talks about the Blue Devils' hard-fought 66-57 win over Clemson at Littlejohn Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018.
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Duke senior guard Grayson Allen talks about the Blue Devils' hard-fought 66-57 win over Clemson at Littlejohn Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018.

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.

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.

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Duke forward Wendell Carter Jr (34) goes up to score in the second half of play as Clemson guard Gabe DeVoe (10) defends. Duke defeated Clemson 66-57. Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com

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.

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Duke Blue Devils guard Grayson Allen (3) reacts after dunking the ball over Clemson guard Marcquise Reed (2) in the first half. Allen led the Blue Devils with 19 points in the win. Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com

The stats for both teams were pretty even, and the game remained close.

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski discusses the important play of Duke's Grayson Allen and Wendell Carter Jr. in the Blue Devils win at Clemson.

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.

Jonathan M. Alexander: 919-829-4822, @jonmalexander

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