Blossomgame scores 17 to lead Clemson past No. 9 Duke 68-63
GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — Clemson has nearly beaten a Final Four of national champions in the past eight days. Tigers forward Jaron Blossomgame doesn’t see why that can’t continue.
Blossomgame scored 17 points, including the clinching dunk with 13.5 seconds left, to lift Clemson to a 68-63 victory over No. 9 Duke on Wednesday night. The victory was the fourth straight for the Tigers (11-6, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) and the third in a row over an NCAA champion in the past eight days following wins at Syracuse and No. 21 Louisville.
“We’re trying to build something special right now,” Blossomgame said.
And perhaps, given Clemson’s trip to the college football national championship game, bringing Tiger fans another contender to back.
“It was another big win for us,” Tigers coach Brad Brownell said. “Exciting in some ways because we had so many guys make plays at the end of the game to get it done.”
Coupled with the Louisville win, it marked the first time the Tigers had defeated ranked opponents back to back since topping Duke and Georgia Tech at the end of the 1989 regular season. Clemson gets another ranked opponent, No. 8 Miami, at home on Saturday in its next game.
This one started like a typical Blue Devils blowout, with Duke taking a 28-16 lead midway through the opening half. Instead, the Tigers hung tough to beat Duke (14-3, 3-1) for the second time in three seasons.
After Blossomgame’s jam, Matt Jones missed a 3-pointer from the left corner that could’ve tied the game. Clemson’s Avry Holmes got the rebound and hit two foul shots with 1.8 seconds left to put things out of reach.
Grayson Allen led Duke with 17 points, three off his season average.
Freshman Brandon Ingram scored 16 points for the Blue Devils, all but one in the first half.
The key to the game, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski thought, came near the end of the opening half when Derryck Thornton missed a 3-pointer and Ingram picked up his third foul scrambling for the rebound.
Blossomgame hit both foul shots to cut the lead to 35-33 at the break.
Krzyzewski thought his team’s aggressiveness, including Ingram’s, slackened because of the foul problems.
“If there’s only so much lead in your pencil, you have to be careful how many words you write,” Krzyzewski said. “But that’s the game and you’ve got to be really smart. It’s tough for a young team to be really smart.”
Donte Grantham scored 16 points and Landry Nnoko had 12 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks for the Tigers. It was his second double-double in the past three games.
Grantham’s 3-pointer tied the game 50-50 before Blossomgame hit a long-range basket to put Clemson ahead for good, 53-50 with 7:24 left.
Jones was fouled while making a layup that pulled Duke within 62-61 with 1:44 left, but he couldn’t complete the three-point play to tie it.
Duke: It was just the third time this season the Blue Devils were held to 35 points or fewer in the opening half. They lost two of the other three times, first to Kentucky and then Utah. ... Duke entered leading the ACC with almost six blocks a game. It had just one against the Tigers.
Clemson: Blossomgame surpassed the 800-point mark for his career with his 17 points in the win over Louisville last Sunday. ... The victory over the Cardinals was the 100th for coach Brad Brownell with the Tigers.
Duke got positive news on Amile Jefferson’s foot injury, but Krzyzewski still cautioned it will be some time before he returns to the lineup. The coach said Jefferson’s right foot fracture was healing well and he could soon get out of the walking boot. “But he can’t play basketball. So it’s a while,” Krzyzewski said.
The Tigers looked lost last month when they fell to three Southeastern Conference teams in Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia and seemed like they’d struggle in ACC play. But Nnoko called a player’s only meeting before the holiday break that seems to have galvanized Clemson. “Landry Nnoko’s been a big part of our voice,” Brownell said. “He’s a voice of reason and a voice of consistency.”
Duke faces Notre Dame at home on Saturday.
Clemson hosts No. 8 Miami on Saturday.