Luke Kennard scored 25 points and was the only Blue Devil in double-figures as No. 18 Duke survived a scrappy Clemson team, 64-62, in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Blue Devils hit eight first half threes and took a 29-18 lead into the break, but their offense bogged down in the final 20 minutes as the Tigers made a run to make this thing a game.
Grayson Allen and Jayson Tatum combined for just 17 points on 5-for-18 shooting two days after scoring 46 points in Thursday night’s win over No. 8 North Carolina.
Saturday’s performance exposed what may the biggest concern with this Duke team moving forward: they really do not have all that much depth. Frank Jackson scored 10 points in 14 minutes off the bench while Harry Giles III and Marques Bolden spelled Amile Jefferson for a combined 12 minutes, but that is all the time that Duke’s backups played on Saturday. In the second half, every Duke starter played at least 17 minutes, with Tatum and Matt Jones playing all 20 minutes. Jefferson, at 29 minutes, was the only Duke starter that didn’t crack 30 minutes, and Allen, who missed a good chunk of the first half after rolling his ankle, was the only perimeter player that didn’t see at least 36 minutes.
Generally speaking, that wouldn’t be an issue, but with Saturday’s tip-off coming less than 39 hours after Duke closed out their win over the Tar Heels on Thursday, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that they were wiped out by the end of the game.
This is an issue for Duke because, as you may know, the NCAA tournament is played in a Thursday-Saturday format as well. Granted, there will be an extra eight hours worth of rest for Duke – teams that play at night in the first round play at night in the second round – but this is going to be something to monitor moving forward.
This problem could be solved by Giles getting healthy or Bolden getting a blue about how to defend at this level, but it doesn’t seem likely that either of those things are going to happen.
It makes you wonder.
The Blue Devils are hurting badly for depth, and they have three McDonald’s All-American big men that aren’t good enough to play at this level.