Duke holds Clemson to 12 first-half points in rout at Cameron
DURHAM, N.C. - A rule of thumb if you are Clemson and trying to achieve the next measure of success against Duke.
Avoid tallying as many fouls in the first half as points.
The lowest scoring half in coach Oliver Purnell's seven-year tenure dug the hole for a 74-53 drubbing at Cameron Indoor Stadium, leaving the 21st-ranked Tigers relating to how the No. 7 Blue Devils felt when Clemson administered their worst ACC loss in 25 years last season.
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"They turned the tables on us," junior point Demontez Stitt said.
The Tigers (12-3, 0-1) couldn't have scripted a much more discouraging start to their conference season.
Having beaten Duke (12-1, 1-0) twice in a row to sever a 22-game series losing streak, Sunday night's game afforded them the opportunity to take the next step by ending a 12-game skid at Cameron.
Their worst fears instead came to fruition, as questions about inexperience and a shortage of scoring threats mixed with a lack of poise to spawn a nightmarish beginning.
Clemson scored 12 first-half points - beating its lowest mark under Purnell by five points - to trail by 18 at halftime.
Stitt scored 15 of his team-high 17 points in the second half, but the Tigers' adjustments to Duke's defense weren't enough. After posting a 11-0 run to shave its deficit to seven in the opening three minutes of the second half, Clemson never got as close as single digits the final 16 minutes.
Duke's backcourt of Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer had 22 points apiece and shot 50 percent, including 60 percent in the second half.
"You have to play more than one half in this building," Purnell said. "Duke's a pretty good basketball team and we obviously stunk it up offensively in the first half. Unforced turnovers, some non-execution - we showed our youth a little bit, but even our veterans didn't do a good job offensively."
While Clemson coaches believed Duke had improved significantly defensively from last year's 74-47 beatdown in Littlejohn Coliseum, they hadn't expected the pendulum to swing to that degree.
The Blue Devils, whom coach Mike Krzyzewski has admitted aren't as athletic as their past teams, have softened their perimeter pressure to funnel dribblers toward their size - they boast the third-tallest starting lineup in the country.
Purnell expressed frustration that, instead of swinging the ball around the perimeter to get defenders moving, Clemson stagnantly held the ball, often leading to a contested forced shot with the shot clock near expiration.
Thus the Tigers got star forward Trevor Booker two touches in the low post during the first half.
The effect: Clemson made 5 of 30 field goals (16.7 percent), likewise eclipsing the lowest single-half shooting percentage under Purnell.
Booker, nearly unstoppable in two victories against Duke, went 4-for-11 for 10 points and five rebounds.
"Booker was a factor, he just wasn't as big of a factor," Krzyzewski said. "He didn't have as much room to roam tonight."
The Tigers fared respectably on defense. The Blue Devils, among the nation's top outside shooting teams and ranked fifth in scoring, connected on 6 of 18 from 3-point range - nearly 10 percent worse than their season average, and nearly on par with their production in losses to Clemson the previous two years.
But it didn't matter in light of the first-half ineptitude.
"None of our young guys played well, and we need that depth," Purnell said. "If we don't have seven or eight guys play well, at the end of the game you're not going to say we played well.
"We have to go back and watch the tape and see it didn't work. We've got to push the ball, move it quickly and go inside-out."
Veteran wings Tanner Smith, David Potter and Andre Young shot a combined 2-for-13, and the heralded freshman trio of Devin Booker, Noel Johnson and Milton Jennings logged as many turnovers (seven) as points.
"I'm sure they wanted to get revenge, but we could have played better," Trevor Booker said. "It was definitely an eye-opener for what we have to do better."
Notes. Clemson's previous worst halves under Purnell: It notched 17 in the first half against Florida State in 2008 and second half against Miami in 2006. ... Duke got 60 of its 74 points from Scheyer, Smith and forward Kyle Singler (16 points). Both Singler (2-for-17) and Scheyer (4-for-19) had struggled in the previous two meetings. ... Clemson doesn't return to action until Saturday's 4 p.m. home game against Boston College.