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Clemson knocks off No. 3 Duke


CLEMSON, SC - DECEMBER 22: Aamir Simms (25) forward of Clemson during a college basketball game between the Yale Bulldogs and the Clemson Tigers on December 22, 2019, at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson, SC. (Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

First, Clemson wins its first-ever game in Chapel Hill. Now, just a couple days later, they’ve got a win against the state of North Carolina’s other monster program, Duke.

The Tigers defeated third-ranked Duke, 79-72, at home Tuesday night to deliver one heck of a follow-up to Saturday’s win against North Carolina.

Clemson shot 56.6 percent from the floor and 42.9 percent from 3-point range. Aamir Simms scored 25 points and added nine rebounds while Tevin Mack had 22 points and nine rebounds.

This dup of wins for Brad Brownell, whose program has gone to just two NCAA tournaments (albeit a Sweet 16 appearance in 2018) in his nine season. The North Carolina win doesn’t do a lot for an NCAA tournament resume, but flipping it forward to a win against Duke certainly does. Still, a non-conference slate whose highlight was an overtime win on a neutral floor against TCU means the Tigers have a lot of work to do, though the last two weeks is a nice start and there are Quad I wins to be had in the ACC.

Duke, which was just dubbed as the sport’s lone elite team by our Rob Dauster, saw its nine-game winning streak snapped with just its second setback of the season, with the first being the wild Stephen F. Austin defeat in November. The Blue Devils had mostly steamrolled their way through their first five ACC opponents, but fell behind early to Clemson and were unable to wrangle back the lead and some separation the rest of the night.

The Blue Devils shot 50 percent from the floor for the game (53.6 percent in the second half) while getting 17 points, five rebounds and four assists from Tre Jones and another 20 points and seven rebounds from Vernon Carey, but it wasn’t enough to hold off the upset-minded Tigers. Despite the loss to a Clemson team that has been largely mediocre this season, there’s probably little to take from this game to worry about going forward for the Blue Devils. Clemson got hot from 3, and Duke’s turnover issue negated its own hot-shooting. If anything, it’s those giveaways that Duke really needs to clean up in its pursuit for the No. 1 overall seed.

The loss also steals a little bit of luster from Duke’s Saturday showdown with No. 11 Louisville.