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Updated: Sunday, February 8, 2004 11:23 PM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(1) Duke 81, Clemson 55

DURHAM, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Starting was a problem for Duke. Finishing wasn't.

The top-ranked Blue Devils avoided an emotional letdown, overcoming a sluggish start to defeat Clemson, 81-55, in an Alantic Coast Conference matchup.

Duke was less than three days removed from its dramatic 83-81 overtime win over archrival North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The game appeared to take its toll as Clemson tied it at 27-27 with 1:50 left in the first half.

"We tried to prepare ourselves not to come out flat," said Duke forward Daniel Ewing, who had four points in 16 minutes. "But we just started out the game without a lot of energy."

J.J. Redick energized the crowd of 9,314 fans at Cameron Indoor Stadium with a 3-pointer that gave Duke (20-1, 9-0 ACC) the lead for good, 30-27, with 63 seconds left in the half.

That started a 9-0 run that closed the half and gave the Blue Devils a 36-27 advantage. Shelden Williams added a three-point play before Lee Melchionni took a feed from Sean Dockery and beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer.

"Dock crossed over to my side and my defender came to him," said Melchionni, who attempted two shots and scored three points in 11 minutes. "I shot it and it felt good and it went in."

"Lee's shot was huge," said Redick, who had 23 points and five assists. "It gave us a ton of momentum going into the second half."

The Blue Devils extended the run to 14-0 on five consecutive points by freshman Luol Deng in the opening 2:20 of the second half. Deng made a free throw and two jumpers for a 41-27 cushion.

Duke led by at least 10 points the rest of the way and pushed its advantage to 20 for the first time on a jumper by Redick with 2:50 to play.

Deng scored a season-high 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting and added three steals in 30 minutes, then received high praise from coach Mike Krzyzewski.

"Lou is playing great basketball," Krzyzewski said. "I don't think there's any freshman playing better on a winning team in the country."

There aren't many teams playing better than the Blue Devils, who extended their winning streak to 17 games. They also have won 17 straight against Clemson and 37 in a row at home.

Sharrod Ford scored 19 points and Shawan Robinson added 18 for the Tigers (9-11, 2-7), who suffered their fifth loss in six games. They were coming off a seven-day break - their longest in January or February since 1987-88.

"We played poorly on both sides of the half," said coach Oliver Pernell, whose team committed 22 turnovers, totaled only seven assists and went 13-of-26 from the free-throw line. "You can't do that against a good team."

It looked good early for Clemson, which took four different leads, the last of which came on a free throw with Robinson that made it 24-23 with 3:53 remaining in the first half.

Duke finished the half on a 13-3 run. Six of the first nine points in the burst came following an offensive rebound. The Blue Devils finished with a 32-25 advantage off the boards.

"We didn't keep them off the glass at all," Pernell said. "And we gave up too many easy baskets in transition off steals. That kind of sealed the game for us."

Duke scored 26 points of Clemson's 22 turnovers. Krzyzewski was especially pleased with the defense and rebounding, especially under the circumstances.

"Coming out after the North Carlina game, it was going to be a real challenge to us," he said.


© 2005 STATS, Inc
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