Rushed Reactions: #7 Duke 63, Clemson 62Posted by Matt Patton on March 15th, 2014
Three Key Takeaways.
- Don’t trust Duke in the NCAA Tournament. This is admittedly a harsh assessment, and the Blue Devils certainly deserve to be listed among the contenders for the title. When they’re hot, they’re borderline unbeatable. And they have a deep rotation of skilled offensive players. But their defense has serious issues. Duke gave up points on nine straight possessions after going up by 13 points in the second half. They scored some too, so it didn’t look like a dominant Clemson run by any means, but what should have been the time Duke put the Tigers away became the time Clemson held on to challenge for the game. Clemson’s offense is mediocre. Those kinds of runs can’t happen, but they’re beginning to seem like standard second half occurrences with this Duke team.
- On the other hand, Duke rebounded really, really well. Unlike defense, many concerns people have with Duke don’t make a lot of sense. This is a very good rebounding team, especially when shots aren’t falling like on Friday night. Amile Jefferson is both a capable offensive player — benefitting from not being the focal point of opposing defenses — and a force on the glass. His and Jabari Parker‘s post games mean Duke has no trouble scoring down low. Jefferson has grown a lot over the course of this season. Remember, during the first half of this season, Josh Hairston was playing comparable minutes to Jefferson (and Marshall Plumlee wasn’t playing at all). As a side note, Quinn Cook’s development has flat-lined — for whatever reason he can’t find much consistency. Offensively, I think point guard play is Duke’s biggest concern going forward.
- Brad Brownell did a masterful job with this Clemson team. I don’t know if Brownell will ever have the recruiting chops for Clemson to contend for NCAA bids every season, but he deserves a lot of credit for taking a team that I thought was dead in the water during the preseason and making them an NIT squad that was only a couple of wins away from the Big Dance. His team plays great defense and outworks their opponents. Remember, Clemson came into Friday off of a comeback overtime win against Georgia Tech; Duke came in from a whole lot of rest. Clemson has one NBA player on its team; Duke has two lottery picks this season (and possibly another in a year or two). This game was a total toss-up down to the final minute because Clemson clawed its way back into the game after being down double-figures halfway through the second half. So major props to Brownell and his players for that 20-win season. They earned it.
Player of the Game: Rodney Hood, Duke. He didn’t have the best game of his career, but when Clemson took the lead with nine seconds left, Hood didn’t flinch. Credit the Duke coaching staff for getting out of his way, but Hood was the one who drove up the court and drew a bump from KJ McDaniels. It was also Hood who knocked down both free throws with under four seconds left. That’s putting a team on your back.
Quotable. Mike Krzyzewski, on Rodney Hood:
“I wish we had him for more than one year. The growth he’s had in this year is terrific, and it’s because he wants to be coached and he takes responsibility. Anybody who is willing to take responsibility for his or her actions usually does better.”
Sights and Sounds. As the game ended Greensboro Coliseum was a weird combination of outrage — especially the Clemson friends and family right behind press row — and relief. With less than 10 seconds left in the game, Rodney Hood drove the length of the court and went sprawling. With a chance to win the game, Rod Hall made it inside the three-point line before Tyler Thornton stripped him of the ball. One play drew a whistle. The other didn’t. With the benefit of replay, the officials got the calls right. I think it’s important to mention this because we rip them when they’re wrong — especially at the end of games. Right calls or not, it hurts when you come that close.
What’s Next. For Clemson it’s the NIT. The Tigers have nothing to hang their heads about, but there just isn’t enough meat on the Tigers’ resume for the NCAA Tournament. For Duke, it’s a 3:00 PM ET date Saturday in the semifinals with NC State, fresh off its revenge bid against Syracuse.