Clemson's Aamir Simms grabs a rebound while defended by Duke's Vernon Carey Jr. during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

Consolation prize: Clemson knocks off No. 3 Duke in hoops

January 14, 2020 - 9:42 pm

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson gave its weary fans something to celebrate a night after losing the national championship game in football, getting a career-high 25 points from Aamir Simms in a 79-72 upset of No. 3 Duke on Tuesday night.

It was the highest-profile upset for the Tigers since beating No. 1 North Carolina on their home court in February 2001. And just like that day, students rushed the court at Littlejohn Coliseum.

The Blue Devils (15-2, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) came into the game a 10 1/2-point favorite and leading the nation with an average margin of victory of 21.5 points. Duke had not lost since a stunning home defeat to Stephen F. Austin in November.

The Tigers completed one of the rarest of ACC doubles. They beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill for the first time in program history Saturday, ending a 59-game losing streak on the Tar Heels' home court.

Clemson (9-7, 3-3) has now beaten North Carolina and Duke in back-to-back games twice. The other time came in 1990, when the Tigers won their only regular-season title in 67 ACC seasons.

Less than 24 hours earlier, The Tigers’ football team fell short in its bid for a third national championship in five seasons, losing 42-25 to LSU in the College Football Playoff championship game at the Superdome in New Orleans. No one expects the Tigers to make a run to the title in basketball, but for one night, they showed they could thump one of the country’s best teams.

Like they did Saturday in Clemson's historic first win ever at North Carolina, Simms and Tevin Mack dominated the second half for the Tigers.

Clemson led 40-33 at halftime and stretched the lead to nine points before Duke rallied. The Blue Devils led 62-59 with 6:40 remaining.

That's when Clemson took control with a 14-3 run, including eight points from Simms. His three-point play made it 73-65 with 2:16 remaining.

Mack scored 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting. Simms was 10 of 15 from the field and had nine rebounds and five assists.

Vernon Carey Jr. scored 20 points for Duke and Tre Jones had 17.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: The Blue Devils' defense, ball control and free throws betrayed them. Clemson shot 56.6%, far better than anyone else against Duke this season. Duke also turned the ball over 15 times and made just 10 of 20 free throws.

Clemson: The obituaries of the Tigers' season written after a 73-68 overtime loss to Miami were premature. Clemson has won three in a row, shooting at least 43% in each game. And beating North Carolina and Duke back-to-back is every ACC fan's dream.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Duke got jumped by Baylor in this week's AP Top 25 to fall to third. The Blue Devils will likely drop further.

UP NEXT

Duke: The Blue Devils host No. 11 Louisville on Saturday with first place in the ACC on the line.

Clemson: The Tigers take on their fourth of five North Carolina-based ACC teams in a row when they head to North Carolina State on Saturday. Clemson has never played five North Carolina teams consecutively in one season.

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