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Duke Can’t Stop Clemson’s Perfect ACC Start

The first place Clemson Tigers now have a two-game lead on the rest of the conference and are poised to be ranked in the next poll.

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

The number one team in the ACC protected their home court against the Duke Blue Devils in an ACC Saturday showdown. The Tigers were victorious 72-64, keeping their conference unbeaten streak alive, now 7-0 in the ACC. This was Clemson’s fourth quad one win of the season.

Littlejohn Coliseum proved to be a chaotic and hostile environment. There is no doubt the home court advantage played a pivotal role in the outcome of this contest.

Clemson started the game with phenomenal defense, lost their way for a stretch, and then ended with more phenomenal defense. Duke’s last field goal of the game came with 5:07 remaining. Rim protection was key for the Tigers defensively. PJ Hall, Ben Middlebrooks, and Ian Schieffelin all played some of their best defense of the season. Disrupting the Blue Devils’ offensive flow made Duke deviate from their initial game plan of attacking the paint.

PJ Hall started scorching hot from the floor. He accounted for 12 of the Tigers first 18 points and 18 of their 30 points in the first half. Hall was put in plenty of favorable matchups in the post and out on the perimeter due to Clemson’s ball movement and post-entry passes. He picked a great night to find his touch around the rim and from outside. He finished with a game-high and season-high 26 points on 10-16 shooting.

Hunter Tyson was the main focal point for Duke’s defense and it was evident. They were doing everything in their power to make Hunter Tyson a non-factor, and to their credit that is exactly what they did. Tyson had seven points and only three rebounds, but others stepped up and filled the void for the Tigers.

One of the players who rose to the occasion was Brevin Galloway. Always the willing shooter, he got hot and scored eight crucial points in a span of three minutes right in the heart of the second half. He his three-point play in the closing minutes put Clemson in control of the game. He finished the game with 17 points.

Another player who stepped up was Ian Schieffelin. He did a great job on the glass, grabbing a team-high eight rebounds. There were pockets of the game where Clemson really struggled to find rebounds, but down the stretch they won the 50/50 balls. Duke out-rebounded the Tigers by two, five offensively, but Clemson was able to come up with timely boards. Schieffelin’s field goal with 1:25 remaining put Clemson up 8 and quelled Duke’s hope for a late comeback.

Josh Beadle was also able to make some tough shots down the stretch for Clemson. Those big time buckets gave Clemson a cushion after the final media timeout.

Out of the gate, the Tigers struggled from three, but it was the defense that showed up. Both of those facets were working in the second half. For the first time in a long time I can say with confidence: The Tigers played with GRIT. The Blue Devils got a lot of favorable calls down the stretch, but Clemson remained unshaken and showed great mental and physical toughness.

Following the win, Clemson fans celebrated in proper fashion:

The Tigers are now 7-0 and will likely be ranked in next week’s poll. Next, Clemson travels to Wake Forest Tuesday night in one of the most important road games of the year. Wake Forest is undefeated at home, but already has a loss this season to the ACC’s number one team, Clemson.