ACC Basketball

Duke escapes to the ACC Semifinals

Photo by Mark Crammer

Let’s make one thing clear. The foul call on Rodney Hood was the right call. K.J. McDaniels threw his hip into Rodney Hood as he drove to the basket in the final seconds. Did Hood embellish? Sure, why not, but it was still a foul. Yes, we all hate when games end on whistles, but if it’s a foul, the referee needs to call it whether it’s five minutes into a game or five seconds left to play in the game.

Next up, the no-foul call when Rod Hall drove to the rim. That too was the right call. I, like the ESPN announcers, first thought a foul should have been called. I thought Tyler Thornton reached in and I also though Rasheed Sulaimon tripped him up. I thought Duke got lucky. Then they showed the replay and I was wrong. I don’t like being wrong.

First, Sulaimon made no contact with Hall, that was easy to see in the replay. However, you could also see that Tyler Thornton made an extremely risky, but good play. He got all ball when he punched the ball out. Now Clemson fans went nuts on Twitter showing photos and still frames of Thornton’s arm making contact with Hall’s arm, but when you watch the replay in slow motion (from behind the Clemson basket), it’s clear the ball gets punched out first, then Thornton makes contact with Hall’s arm. Once that ball is out, the contact doesn’t matter.

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That’s all ball, folks.

 

Sadly, a situation like this spoiled what was a great game.

The game was sluggish at first, both teams struggling to hit shots, but by midway through the second half, Duke had opened up a 13-point lead. However, if you’ve seen any Duke game this year, then you know this means their opponent has them right where they want them.

The Tigers D clamped down on the Blue Devils and they started to drain wide-open threes. Rod Hall, who was unstoppable for most of the game, with nine seconds to go, nailed a mid-range jumper to give Clemson the lead until Hood’s foul on the other end.

Like a lot of stars in the ACC Tournament so far, Jabari Parker struggled. He hit just 6-17 shots, often settling for long jumpers instead of attacking the rim. Of course Landry Nnoko’s shot blocking abilities might have played a part in that. Overall, Duke struggled from deep, hitting just 3-13 from three, but let’s not forget that Clemson’s defense specializes in shutting down the three-point shot.

The Tigers did struggle to score early as well, thanks in part to K.J. McDaniel dealing with his shoulder injury. However, in the second half they attacked the paint and shot a stunning 67-percent from the floor. I think the only mistake they made was not getting the ball into the post to Nnoko ebough, especially when he had the lighter Amile Jefferson on him.

In the end, Clemson and Brad Brownell had a great year. Most people thought they’d be competing for last place, but instead finished sixth, nearly knocking Duke off twice. Their 20-12 record won’t be good enough for the NCAA Tournament, but they should find a home in the N.I.T.

As for the Blue Devils, this one probably feels like a loss to the fans. I can’t blame them. They have to be sick of seeing the same crap over and over again. Duke has consistently opened up double digit leads and then blown those leads. This time they held on, but when the competition is better, they don’t. The fact is, this team lacks a leader, someone who can put the team on their shoulders emotionally and talent-wise.

Next up is North Carolina State, who took care of business against Syracuse in the earlier game.

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