No. 7 Duke escapes against Clemson, 63-62

Mar. 15, 2014 @ 12:51 AM

Rodney Hood said he learned a lesson when Duke lost at Notre Dame to open ACC play.

Friday night, he put that knowledge to work and made two foul shots with 3.8 seconds left lifting the Blue Devils over Clemson 63-62 in the ACC Tournament. Nationally seventh-ranked Duke (25-7) takes on N.C. State, an upset winner over No. 11 Syracuse, in today’s second semifinal contest.

Junior guard Rod Hall’s driving layup with 7.4 seconds to go for a 62-61 lead completed the Tigers’ rally from 13 down in the second half. But Hood quickly got the inbounds pass and headed for the lane, where he fell after contact with K.J. McDaniels.

His first foul shot was smooth with just a little iron, the second only net.

“I had enough time to get it on the run,” Hood said. “It was just like at Notre Dame. I was able to drive and to draw contact.”

It was a nice bookend to a half that began with him in a team-orchestrated huddle, where he threw up as play continued on the court, a frequent occurrence for him and often just before the opening tip.

“I felt good after that,” Hood assured. ‘It works.”

And Duke had to work to avoid a bad upset and join the Orange and No. 15 North Carolina headed home. Even to the last possession.

After Hood’s free throws, Hall again sprinted into the front court, just as had Hood, and headed toward the elbow of the lane. Senior guard Tyler Thornton got a hand in, and the buzzer sounded with the ball loose near the free throw line.

“It happens over and over again,” Thornton said. “I got a clean look at the ball. I saw an opportunity to get a hand on it.”

Clemson (20-12), an overtime winner the previous night, made a quartet of 3-pointers and continued successful possessions through the heart of the second half.

“We beat a team that put everything on the line against us,” said Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “We’d have a five-point lead, and we couldn’t get a stop.”

“Our shots were not falling,” Thornton said. “Clemson was fighting, too. They hit big shots, and they switched defenses, too. We got looks we wanted, but didn’t hit the shots.

“I’m glad we were able to win a game like this. It shows our character.”

Freshman Jabari Parker led Duke with 18 points, Hood scored 17 and Amile Jefferson yanked down 13 rebounds.

Clemson’s balanced attack included 13 from Hall, 12 points by McDaniels, 11 from Adonis Roper and 10 by Landry Nnoko.

Krzyzewski said he isn’t surprised Mark Gottfried’s N.C. State squad, anchored by T.J. Warren, is awaiting in the semifinals. He also assured that each win in the ACC Tournament remains special and hard-earned, no matter the opponent or the round.

“N.C. State is playing great basketball,” Krzyzewski said. “Mark has his team at a high level of belief. Warren has had a great year, but the last couple of weeks have been phenomenal.”

The Blue Devils are seeking their first tournament title since 2011 and their 11th in 16 seasons.

Contact the writer at awooten@hendersondispatch.com.