Clemson coach Brad Brownell got plenty of congratulations from Tigers fans content with the strong effort they saw in a 73-66 loss to No. 8 Duke.
Brownell's not buying that for a minute.
"We lost and we're here to win games," a disappointed Brownell said Sunday night.
Clemson (9-8, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) did lots of things right against the Blue Devils.
The Tigers started fast, played tight defense to hold Duke's Austin Rivers and Seth Curry to half their combined scoring average and made several big shots down the stretch to cut the Blue Devils' 13-point second half lead to 68-64 in the final minute. In the end, Andre Dawkins took over with 24 points off five 3-pointers as Duke (15-2, 3-0) to beat Clemson for the 26th time in 28 meetings.
"We're not having a great year at all, so everybody can say we had a good effort or that it was a good try," Brownell said. "You can't let that fool you."
Clemson didn't help itself at the foul line, either, making just half its 20 chances. Milton Jennings, who led the Tigers with 16 points, was 1 of 4 on free throws.
"How many times do you shoot more free throws than Duke?" Brownell said. The Blue Devils were 15 of 18 from the line.
In the end, it was simply too much of Dawkins, Duke's 6-foot-4 junior.
"Andre is capable of that if we do a good job getting him open," Duke forward Mason Plumlee said. "He created stuff for himself as well. He met the challenge today and played just unbelievable."
Dawkins made three foul shots down the stretch after Clemson cut the lead to four points on two 3-pointers by Andre Young, helping the Blue Devils beat Clemson for the 26th time in the last 28 meetings.
If Dawkins "has a bad night, we're going to win the game," Tigers coach Brad Brownell said.
Milton Jennings had 16 points for the Tigers and Devin Booker added 12 points and 13 rebounds.
Duke looked as if it had put the game out of reach when it opened the second half on a 14-7 run. Quinn Cook had a jumper and a 3-pointer and Seth Curry added a bucket. Miles Plumlee put back his brother Mason's miss for two more points. By the time Dawkins made his third 3-pointer of the game, the Blue Devils were ahead 46-33.
The Blue Devils were still in front by 10 points on Rivers' layup less with less than seven minutes to go when Clemson put on a final charge. Andre Young hit a 3-pointer and K.J. McDaniel a basket to cut the lead to 65-61.
After Dawkins answered with his final three, Young came back with another long-range shot to bring the Tigers within four one last time. That's when Dawkins extended the margin with his foul shots and Clemson could not respond.
Mason Plumlee scored 12 points and Cook had 10 for the Blue Devils. Miles Plumlee had a game-high 14 rebounds.
Clemson drew a large crowd to Littlejohn Coliseum, partly because of last week's 20-point win over Florida State in the ACC opener and partly because of the football team's visiting recruits.
Duke gutted out a 61-58 win over No. 16 Virginia on Thursday night and was prepared for a similar struggle at Littlejohn Coliseum. The Blue Devils came in having won 10 of their past 11 games at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Krzyzewski was so upset after Tanner Smith's unchallenged drive to the hoop, he called timeout less than two minutes in and replaced his five starters. Clemson's lead eventually reached 16-7 on Devin Coleman's foul shot with 11:46 to go in the half.
That's when Duke began to find its offense. Ryan Kelly scored five points in a two minute span to draw the Blue Devils to 18-14. Mason Plumlee's three-point play with 5:29 left gave Duke its first lead of the game, 21-20. Seth Curry followed with a high-arcing 3-pointer over Clemson's 7-foot-2 center Catalin Baciu. Andre Dawkins closed the half with eight straight points and Duke took a 32-28 lead into the break.
The Tigers lost a second straight ACC game after opening league play with a 79-59 win over Florida State last week.