McDaniels, Clemson shoot down No. 16 Duke
CLEMSON, S.C. — Jaron Blossomgame feels he’s finally ready to make an impact for Clemson. Beating No. 16 Duke was a great way to start.
Blossomgame had career highs of 14 points and 14 rebounds, plus hit two critical 3-pointers to move the Tigers in front for a 72-59 win Saturday, sending the Blue Devils to their first 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference start in seven years.
Blossomgame was one of the Tigers’ most highly regarded recruits two years ago, but missed his freshman season after breaking a leg. He had a second surgery on that this summer and the 6-foot-7 freshman has taken his time this season finding his way.
"This is big day for me, my breakout game," Blossomgame said. "I’ve had a rough start, but I’m trying to get back into the flow of things."
His big shots helped turn Duke’s 10-point first-half lead into a Clemson runaway.
Blossomgame’s 3-pointer with 9:27 left put the Tigers (11-4, 2-1 ACC) out front, 52-50, for the first time since the game’s early moments. With the game tied at 54-all moments later, Blossomgame struck from left corner to give Clemson the lead for good.
Quinn Cook’s three with 6:20 to go cut Clemson’s lead to 59-57, but the Blue Devils (12-4, 1-2) managed only two foul shots the rest of the way to end a five-game win streak over the Tigers.
K.J. McDaniels had 24 points and 10 rebounds for Clemson. Landry Nnoko also had a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Nnoko had four of the team’s seven blocks while McDaniels had the rest.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Blossomgame’s shooting "definitely turned the tide in their favor."
Rodney Hood led the Blue Devils with 20 points. Jabari Parker, who had Blossomgame guarding him much of the game, scored 15 points, only five after halftime.
"We’re not some powerhouse," Krzyzewski said. "We need to get a lot better.
Clemson coach Brad Brownell was angry with his team at halftime because they didn’t attack the basket the way he’d hoped. "He kind of got at me and made more aggressive than I had been," said Rod Hall, who had 11 points in the second half for Clemson.
Hall pushed the pace right after halftime, scoring on three driving layups to as Clemson cut into what had been a 10-point Duke lead.
Duke also lost its shooting touch. The Blue Devils made just eight of 32 shots in the second half and could not keep up with Clemson’s defense.
"The longer the game went on I think we convinced ourself that we could win the game," Brownell said.
Blossomgame bettered his career marks of nine points set against Massachusetts and nine rebounds set against Davidson, both games coming last month at the Charleston Classic.
Duke entered the week with its lowest ranking in six years and rebounded with a 79-57 victory at home over Georgia Tech on Tuesday night. But the Blue Devils were back on the road where prized freshman Parker struggled in 79-77 loss at Notre Dame last Saturday. He had just seven points, the first time he’d failed to break double digits this season.
Parker took care of that issue early, hitting a pair of 3-pointers and collecting 10 points in the first six minutes as the Blue Devils moved in front 15-11. Parker missed the only two other shots he took as Clemson’s best-in-the-nation defense clamped down on Duke.
Still, the Blue Devils methodical style gradually pushed the lead to 36-26 when Clemson went without a field goal for nearly six minutes late in the period.
That’s when McDaniels hit a 3-pointer and Harrison followed with a jam to cut the lead in half. Amile Jefferson made one of two foul shots to send Duke to the locker room with a 37-31.
When Parker’s production slowed down, Hood picked it up with 11 points down the stretch.
While it the Tigers were down, the offensive showing was a big improvement from two nights earlier when they were held to 30 percent shooting in a 56-41 home loss to Florida State. Clemson made 42 percent of its shots and had just seven turnovers against Duke’s pressure.
The sold-out crowd at Littlejohn Coliseum got a treat at halftime when the football team came out and posed with its Orange Bowl trophy. The football Tigers finished with their second straight 11-win season and finished ranked eighth in the final AP poll.