DURHAM, N.C. —The shot was meaningless in the context of Tuesday’s outcome as No. 1 Duke was well on its way to a 68-40 rout of Clemson when Milton Jennings connected on a 3-pointer with 2:12 to play.
But the shot was meaningful in another way: the jumper was the first Clemson (8-6, 0-2 ACC) made the entire game, the only field goal the Tigers connected on outside of the dark-blue paint at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Poor shooting had become a chronic issue for Clemson.
Poor shooting led to another slow start Tuesday, in a building where the Tigers could least afford it. Clemson made just 3 of 25 first-half shots (12 percent) as it trailed Duke (15-0, 2-0), 25-10 at the half. In November, Clemson football led Duke 42-17 at halftime.
Clemson made just 27 percent of its shots for the game.
In all six of its losses this season, Clemson has shot less than 40 percent from the field. The Tigers are shooting 31.4 percent from 3-point range — good for tie for 11th in the ACC — after a 1 of 11 shooting night beyond the arc at Duke.
In an effort to find more offense, Clemson coach Brad Brownell made a lineup change, inserting freshman Adonis Filer in as a starter over Damarcus Harrison. The result was Clemson’s worst first-half scoring output since scoring nine points against Wake in 2001. It begs this question: does Brownell have capable scorers on the roster or will he have to find them in recruiting?
“I think we are a better shooting team than we are showing right now,” Brownell said. “Some of this is Duke’s defense. Duke’s defense doesn’t give you a lot of rhythm and open 3s. They make it hard for you. We don’t have a great shooter, but we have some guys who can make some shots. It’s hard for us when we get off to a little bit of a struggle, our guys press a little bit.
“We have to find ways to score.”
Did the raucous environment and cramped confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium get to Clemson’s young players? Clemson is 4-58 all-time at Duke, one of college basketball’s toughest road venues.
Clemson freshman Jordan Roper didn’t think so.
Despite all the noise and all the sound from the Cameron Crazies, Clemson did connect on its first eight free throw attempts, suggesting the frenzy was an overstated factor.
“Me, personally, the environment wasn’t a factor,” Roper said. “(The court) is 94 feet by 50 feet and you just have to play your game. ... I think we got great looks; shots just didn’t fall for us.”
Roper said he tried to visualize what it would be like playing in Cameron Indoor before Tuesday’s game.
“I imagined them being more on top of you,” said Roper of the fans.
Clemson did accomplish some positive things against Duke.
Clemson’s defense was much improved, particularly its transition defense. Duke scored just eight fast-break points and was held under 40 percent shooting until the final moments.
Clemson played effective full-court pressure in the second half, forcing three straight Duke turnovers at one point, which sent Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski into a furious state, throwing his arms to his side demonstratively in disgust.
Clemson forward Devin Booker (15 points, 12 rebounds) outplayed Duke forward Mason Plumlee (8 points, 13 rebounds).
But wins will be hard to come by until Clemson can improve its outside shooting.
“At halftime, we had a big speech,” Booker said. “But we still couldn’t hit the shots we should hit.”