Friday, January 26, 2007

Tigers subdued after loss at Duke

DURHAM - As he paced the sideline and rubbed his chin Thursday night, Clemson coach Oliver Purnell looked frustrated.

The Tigers were relentless as they rallied from an 11-point deficit to tie the game with five seconds left at Duke before losing 68-66 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski admitted that Clemson was stronger in the final 10 minutes. But the Tigers weren't strong enough, especially on the boards, where Duke held a 40-24 rebounding advantage.

"The rebounding throughout the game really cost us -- our inability to keep them off the offensive glass," Purnell said.

Clemson's players echoed Purnell's thoughts after losing to Duke for the 20th straight time. Point guard Vernon Hamilton, who scored 21 points on 9-for-15 from the field despite a stomach virus, said Clemson didn't play well.

"The bottom line is, they're hurting," Purnell said, "and I told them, `You should hurt.' This kind of loss, when you're a good team coming in expecting to win, should hurt."

That Clemson came to Duke expecting to win is a measure of progress for the program. That the Tigers couldn't get it done demonstrates that they have more progress to make.

'Dependable' McClure wins it.

The game-winning field goal at the buzzer was one of just two in the entire game by forward Dave McClure, who was 2-for-5 from the field and scored eight points.McClure is better known for playing defense, rebounding and screening, which is what he was supposed to do for Jon Scheyer before Clemson's defense fouled up the play.

"He doesn't get up or down, he's dependable," Krzyzewski said. "He makes simple, terrific plays. It's not just his defense, but his rebounding."

For Clemson, the last shot was a matter of turnabout. The Tigers won on court-long, closing-seconds plays for lay-ups by Cliff Hammonds at Florida State and James Mays against Georgia Tech.

• Center Josh McRoberts didn't shirk responsibility for the errant inbound pass that allowed Hamilton to tie the game with a 3-pointer with 4.4 seconds left. "Going back to when I started playing basketball, I can't think of a worse play I've ever made," McRoberts said.

• Clemson, which entered the game on pace for the worst free throw shooting season in ACC history at 57.8 percent, shot 10-for-11 from the foul line. The only miss was by Mays on the second of two free throws that would have tied the game with 2:55 remaining.

-- Ken Tysiac: 919-834-8471