Fresh off a noteworthy win over the North Carolina Tar Heels, the Clemson University men’s basketball team took down another Tobacco Road blue blood on Tuesday, as the Tigers upset No. 3 Duke. Clemson downed the Blue Devils 79-72 at Littlejohn Coliseum, leading to a court storming and marking the first time since the 1995-96 campaign that the Tigers defeated Duke and North Carolina in the same season. As a result of the victory, Clemson Head Coach Brad Brownell notched his 178th victory at the helm of the Tiger program, making him the all-time winningest head coach in Clemson men’s basketball history.
Clemson (9-7, 3-3) controlled the pace of the game throughout, shooting 56.6 percent from the floor and forcing 15 turnovers. The Tigers outrebounded the Blue Devils (15-2, 5-1) 35-27 and also scored 38 points in the paint as compared to Duke’s 34 points in the paint. Both teams knocked down eight 3-pointers and shot 50 percent from the free throw line, but Clemson was able to stave off Duke via its efficient shooting from the field.
Scoring a career-high 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting, Aamir Simms led Clemson by way of his 10-of-15 shooting performance. Simms connected on two 3-point shots and pulled down nine rebounds to go along with his five assists. Tevin Mack matched his season high with 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting. Mack sank a pair of 3-balls and corralled nine rebounds, as well. In addition to solid spot-up shooting, Mack consistently got to the basket for pivotal layups. John Newman III tabbed 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Newman excelled on defense, too, recording four steals and two blocks, both of which are career-best marks. Vernon Carey Jr. paced Duke with 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting.
In the first half, Clemson fell down 4-0 but raced to a 40-33 lead at halftime. The Tigers shot the ball at a percentage of 57.7 over the course of the first 20 minutes of action and forced nine turnovers on the defensive end. Clemson led by as many as nine points in the first half, which was highlighted by Newman throwing down a thunderous, posterizing dunk at the 8:18 mark. That emphatic slam was part of a 6-0 run that Newman singlehandedly put together, as he made a 3-pointer the next time down the floor.
Duke cut into Clemson’s lead at the start of the second half, but the Tigers regained the momentum with a 7-0 run that culminated in Clemson going up 49-40 at the 16:46 mark. The Blue Devils were able to erase that deficit and eventually led by three points in the second half. After Duke garnered a 62-59 advantage with 6:36 remaining, the Tigers outscored the Blue Devils 20-10 the rest of the way. Newman effectively iced the game when he put Clemson up by eight points via a corner trey just under the 2-minute mark, and the Tigers held the Blue Devils at bay in the game’s final moments.
Once the final buzzer sounded in Clemson’s 79-72 triumph, the exuberant Clemson students celebrated by storming the court. The Tigers defeated the Tar Heels and the Blue Devils in back-to-back games for the first time since the 1989-90 season, and Clemson will look to build off that impressive stretch moving forward. Also of note, the No. 3 Blue Devils are the highest-ranked team to be beaten by a Brownell-coached Clemson squad.