CLEMSON -- In the winter of 2009, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski called a timeout in the waning moments of a 27-point loss at Clemson to let his Blue Devils further absorb the rare feeling and sounds of a blowout defeat.
Against a less-talented Clemson team Sunday night than that of two years ago, Krzyzewski again called timeout with less than two minutes remaining. This time the pause was an attempt to stall Clemson's late rally rather than soak in a frenzied Littlejohn Coliseum environment.
The Tigers' rally fell short, 73-66, and though Clemson coach Brad Brownell declined to relish in moral- victory sentiment after the game, not all progress this season for a young, undermanned Tigers squad can be measured by wins.
For perspective, Clemson (9-8, 1-2 ACC) has lost to No. 8 Duke (15-2, 3-0) in 26 of its last 28 meetings.
"We are here to win games," Brownell
said. "I understand Duke is a terrific team and we are not having a great year, so everyone wants to say 'Hey, that's a great effort, great try.' We can't let that fool (us)."
Brownell conceded there was evidence of growth.
He noted Clemson competed, keeping the deficit below double digits for much of the second half.
There was Clemson's defense on blue-chip Duke freshman Austin Rivers, held scoreless for the first 30 minutes.
And perhaps most encouraging were the performances by junior forwards Devin Booker and Milton Jennings.
Booker showed intensity and ruggedness pulling down a team-best 13 rebounds and scoring 12 points, displaying a jump-stop move in the paint and a 15-foot jumper off the glass, offensive versatility which Booker had not previously shown on a big stage.
Milton Jennings scored a team-best 16 points on 7 of 13 shooting, appearing to be more confident in playing against a high-caliber opponent in a sold-out arena.
"(Jennings) did what he's supposed to do," Brownell said. "He's a junior in the program. He's a guy that has ability. When he and (Booker) play like that on a regular basis we are a formidable opponent. When they don't, we're very, very average at best."
Jennings and Booker each had success using quickness against Duke's imposing frontline.
"I had mismatches all night," Jennings said. "My game is starting to come around."
Still, Brownell was hesitant to say a go-to player has been found. When asked if he thinks Clemson is on the verge of finding a go-to player, Brownell said: "Not really."
"I don't know that there will be one guy that will emerge if we are 17 games in," Brownell said.
Fueled by a raucous crowd, Clemson jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the first four minutes.
But after several Krzyzewski timeouts, and NHL-style full line changes, he got the attention of his team and Andre Dawkins -- who scored a game-high 24 and made more threes (5) than the Clemson team (4) -- to gradually erode the Clemson lead late in the first half. The Tigers never led in the second half.
"I feel a huge opponent for us is human nature," Krzyzewski said. "Coach (Bob) Knight and I talked a lot about this the last few years, human nature being your biggest opponent. … I knew Clemson would be ready to play. I've sent a message for two full days. After about eight minutes in, everyone wanted to fight."
3-Point Goals -- Duke 8-23 (Dawkins 5-9, Cook 2-3, Curry 1-4, Kelly 0-2, Rivers 0-2, Thornton 0-3); Clemson 4-16 (Young 2-7, Jennings 1-3, Smith 1-3, Coleman 0-1, Sapp 0-1, Booker 0-1). Steals -- Duke 5 (Curry, Mi, Plumlee, Thornton, Dawkins, Kelly); Clemson 9 (Young 2, Jennings 2, Smith 2). Blocks -- Duke 4 (Dawkins 2); Clemson 2 (Jennings, Young). Turnovers -- Duke 17 (Mi. Plumlee 4); Clemson 12 (Booker 3, Sapp 3). A--10,000.