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Blossomgame, Clemson take down Duke

The SportsXchange

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson coaches and fans have been waiting patiently for freshman Jaron Blossomgame's game to well, blossom.

It came into full bloom Saturday, and the result was a resounding upset victory over No. 13 Duke in an Atlantic Coast Conference game at Littlejohn Coliseum.

Blossomgame, a redshirt freshman, scored 14 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to spark a second-half rally that lifted Clemson to a 72-59 victory in front a sold-out crowd of 9,842.

Blossomgame's totals, both career highs, helped complement a strong effort by the ACC's top scoring defense as the Tigers held the high-scoring Blue Devils to more than 25 points below their season average.

"It was great to see Jaron play to his ability level," Clemson coach Brad Brownell said after notching his first victory in four games against the Blue Devils.

"He hasn't played as well as we'd like to date, but we've been patient with him and that patience paid off today."

Blossomgame, who has had to overcome two leg surgeries in a 14-month span, entered the game averaging 3.9 points and 3.9 rebounds, but his confidence appeared to grow by leaps and bounds as the game wore on.

Charged with guarding Duke's leading scorer, Jabari Parker, Blossomgame came through in a big way, limiting Parker to 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting.

"I wanted to focus on defense mostly because I was guarding Jabari Parker, and I guess my great defense turned into great offense," Blossomgame said. "A lot of people were telling me I couldn't guard him, but I just tuned all that out."

It was an impressive if not downright stunning performance by the Tigers, who were soundly defeated, 56-41, at home by Florida State on Thursday night.

"We turned things around after a poor performance the other night and we turned it around again today at halftime," said Brownell, whose team trailed, 37-31, at half. "Duke is an offensive juggernaut and we kept them from making a big run."

Clemson (11-4, 2-1) registered its first victory against the Blue Devils since 2009. Duke fell to 12-4, 1-2.

The Tigers opened the second half by outscoring Duke, 15-7, and pulled within 47-46 on a baseline drive and layup by K.J. McDaniels with 14:15 left.

The Tigers took the lead on a 3-pointer by Blossomgame with 9:25 left and never trailed after Blossomgame hit a second 3-pointer with 7:28 remaining.

"That kid had an amazing game," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said of Blossomgame. "Those two shots turned the tide in their favor."

While Clemson's offense began to click, Duke's disappeared.

The Tigers nearly doubled the Blue Devils' output in the second half, outscoring them 41-22, and held Duke to two free throws over the final 6:23.

Duke entered the game leading the ACC and ranked 10th nationally in scoring offense at 84.3 points per game, but wound up with season lows in points (59), field goal percentage (33.9 percent) and field goals made (20).

"Duke doesn't own the patent to play hard," Krzyzewski said. "Clemson played so hard from the get-go. In the first half we did a good job of countering that, but their determination and physicality wore us down."

Junior forward K.J. McDaniels, Clemson's leading scorer, scored 24 points, including a follow slam with 38 seconds left that capped the most notable victory in Brownell's four seasons.

Duke is the highest-ranked team Brownell has defeated while at Clemson and only the third Top 25 team the Tigers have beaten during his tenure.

McDaniels also had 10 rebounds, while sophomore center Landry Nnoko had 10 points and 13 rebounds, as Clemson outrebounded the Blue Devils by a 48-30 margin.

Rodney Hood led Duke with 20 points.

NOTES: Clemson had not defeated Duke since a 74-47 victory at Littlejohn Coliseum in February of 2009. ... In the last 31 games between Clemson and Duke, the Blue Devils have been ranked in the Top 10 on 29 occasions. ... Saturday's victory gave Clemson its first 2-1 start in ACC play since the 2010-11 season, coach Brad Brownell's first. ... Duke entered Saturday's game having scored 80 points or more in 10 of its first 15 games. ... Duke sophomore forward Rodney Hood is averaging 24.6 points over the Blue Devils' last three games.
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