CLEMSON, S.C. – Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski sounded like the only person at Littlejohn Coliseum not surprised at Clemson’s upset victory.
The 16th-ranked Blue Devils entered the week with their lowest ranking since November 2007. Expect another new low next week after Duke’s 72-59 loss to the Tigers on Saturday.
Krzyzewski said his young team is far from the juggernaut expected because of his NCAA championship reputation and the addition of prized freshman Jabari Parker. The Blue Devils had their first 1-2 in Atlantic Coast Conference in seven seasons.
“We’re a very young team and we get predicted to do something based on me being old,” said Krzyzewski, a Hall of Famer who’s won four NCAA titles since starting at Duke.
“That’s the way it is. And we have to measure up to something we probably weren’t good enough to do to begin with.”
The Blue Devils certainly weren’t good at Clemson. They had season lows in field goal shooting (33.8 percent), baskets (20), points in a game and in a half (22).
When it came time to make critical plays, it was Clemson’s K.J. McDaniels, Jaron Blossomgame and Landry Nnoko who did it instead of Blue Devils stars Rodney Hood and Parker.
It was Duke’s second road loss in a week after falling, 79-77, at Notre Dame to open league play last Saturday.
“We’re not a good team right now,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re a small team and we need to make up for it in other ways. We’re not some powerhouse.”
Blossomgame had career highs of 14 points and 14 rebounds, plus hit two critical 3-pointers for the Tigers.
Blossomgame was one of the Tigers’ most highly regarded recruits two years ago, but missed his freshman season after breaking a leg. He had a second surgery this summer and the 6-foot-7 freshman has taken his time this season finding his way.
“This is a big day for me, my breakout game,” Blossomgame said. “I’ve had a rough start, but I’m trying to get back into the flow of things.”
His big shots helped turn Duke’s 10-point first-half lead into a Clemson runaway.
Blossomgame’s 3-pointer with 9:27 to go put the Tigers (11-4, 2-1 ACC) out front, 52-50, for the first time since the game’s early moments. With the game tied at 54-all moments later, Blossomgame struck from the left corner to give Clemson the lead for good.
Quinn Cook’s three with 6:20 to go cut Clemson’s lead to 59-57, but the Blue Devils (12-4, 1-2) managed only two foul shots the rest of the way to end a five-game win streak over the Tigers.
K.J. McDaniels had 24 points and 10 rebounds for Clemson. Landry Nnoko also had a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Nnoko had four of the team’s seven blocks while McDaniels had the rest.
Krzyzewski said Blossomgame’s shooting “definitely turned the tide in their favor.”
Hood led the Blue Devils with 20 points. Parker, who had Blossomgame guarding him much of the game, scored 15 points, only five after halftime.
Clemson coach Brad Brownell was angry with his team at halftime because they didn’t attack the basket the way he’d hoped.
“He kind of got at me and made more aggressive than I had been,” said Rod Hall, who had 11 points in the second half for Clemson.
Hall pushed the pace right after halftime, scoring on three driving layups as Clemson cut into what had been a 10-point Duke lead.
Duke also lost its shooting touch. The Blue Devils made just eight of 32 shots in the second half and could not keep up with Clemson’s defense.
“The longer the game went on I think we convinced ourselves that we could win the game,” Brownell said.
Blossomgame bettered his career marks of nine points set against Massachusetts and nine rebounds set against Davidson, both games coming last month at the Charleston Classic.