January 20, 1999
BATTIER BOMBS AWAY: Because he is a defensive wizard, and because he doesn’t shoulder much of the scoring load in Duke’s potent offense, some might assume that sophomore forward Shane Battier simply can’t shoot. That may have been what was on the minds of the Tigers when they almost dared Battier to shoot three-pointers at the beginning of the second half.
It didn’t take long for Battier to remind us that he is no bricklayer. In fact, it took him about 46 seconds — the time between his two consecutive treys, which sparked a 9-0 Duke run in the first three minutes of the second half, turning a narrow three-point Blue Devil lead into a virtually insurmountable 12-point advantage.
Real Audio Coach Krzyzewski’sPostgame Press Conference Coach Shyatt’s Postgame Press Conference Clemson fans celebrate the Tigers’ early lead
“They just left me open,” said Battier. “There was no designed play for the three-pointers. We got the ball inside to Elton (Brand) and they just collapsed on him. He was really poised and did a great job of spotting the open man. When I caught the ball, I was so surprised that I was that wide open, so I just stepped up and knocked it down. The next play, almost the exact same thing happened.”
Contrary to common belief, the three-point line isn’t exactly unfamiliar territory to Battier.
“A lot of people forget that I was the three-point champion at the McDonald’s All-American Game,” said Battier. “So it’s not like I’ve never taken threes in high school or this is the first time I’ve taken threes. But this is really the first year I’m getting comfortable and making good reads on my three-point shots.
“I honestly didn’t think of the score when I took the shots tonight. That’s a big change from last year. With the game so close, I wouldn’t even have thought about taking a shot at this point last year.”
That’s exactly the kind of attitude Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski hoped to see in his budding young star.
“When he has hit (three-pointers), usually we’ve had a big lead,” said Krzyzewski. “So for him to hit in that situation — those are bigger threes than if we’re up by 20 at the end of a game. So you grow. He’s a sophomore and that’s part of his game.”
THY WILL BE DONE: Clemson was shorthanded three players on Wednesday — forward Tony Christie did not play after injuring his back on a dunk Sunday at Virginia, while guard Johnny Miller and forward Vincent Whitt (the Tigers’ third and fourth-leading scorers, respectively) were suspended for “a violation of team rules.”
So imagine you’re freshman Will Solomon and you’re thrust into your first collegiate start against the #2 team in America, a team which has not trailed in its last four games, a team which has won its first six ACC games by an average of 26.7 points. In the four ACC games you’ve appeared in, you’ve shot a combined 1-for-11 from the field and scored a grand total of four points, and you’ll open the game by bringing the ball upcourt against the National Player of the Year candidate, the guy who leads the ACC in four statistical categories, the guy who they call the “Alaskan Assassin.” And just for kicks, we’ll put the game on national television in prime time. Sound like fun?
Well, Solomon’s night got off to a bumpy start — he traveled. But the next time downcourt, he drove left, pumped, got Langdon off his feet and drilled a jumper from the left side.
In fact, Solomon was getting past Langdon so effectively, Duke switched William Avery onto him. That didn’t work either, so the Blue Devils assigned Corey Maggette to him. Then Avery again. Then Chris Carrawell. Then back to Avery. And that’s just in the first half.
Still, Solomon looked confident and embraced his opportunity. In the final eight minutes of the first half, Clemson only scored eight points, and Solomon had seven of them.
Solomon ended the night with very respectable numbers: he led Clemson in scoring with 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting (six of his misses were three-pointers), four rebounds, three assists and two steals in 36 minutes.
“We weren’t intimidated,” said Solomon. “We came to play hard. We knew it was a big game for us, but we fell short. We learned a lot, though. We learned to stick together and play together hard always.”
SMALL WONDER: After being held to a career-low two points on Sunday at Virginia, Clemson guard Terrell McIntyre had another difficult outing on Wednesday. He scored 13 points, but he went 0-for-6 from beyond the arc and had only three assists to seven turnovers.
“It was tough,” said McIntyre. “(Carrawell) did a great job. They all did a great job spacing me and wanting me to shoot over them. Once I let it go, they would get a hand up and get a piece of the ball. They did a great job of packing it in once I had the ball at the top of the key, so even if I did beat him, I wasn’t going anywhere because they had help right there waiting for me. I think that was a great strategy.”
So based on his recent struggles, has McIntyre lost his touch? No way, according to Coach K, who said McIntyre dictated the pace of the game in the first half.
“It’s obvious when you have a player the caliber of McIntyre, you’re not necessarily going to be able to impose your tempo, because he can handle it so well,” said Krzyzewski.
“McIntyre is just one of the best players in the country. The kid’s a great player. (Chris) Carrawell played him really hard and we were fortunate. I don’t know what he shot, but he had to shoot quite a bit. I’d like to have him, I’ll tell you that.”
CARRA-WELL DONE: Indeed, McIntyre’s struggles were largely due to the fact that Carrawell had one of the best games of his career, using his nine-inch height advantage to the fullest.
The junior forward may not gain the fame of a Trajan Langdon or an Elton Brand, but his contribution at Clemson was immense.
In addition to the superb defensive effort he gave against McIntyre, Carrawell scored 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting, dished out a career-high eight assists and blocked three shots.
“I’ve been trying to tell people that’s my game — I’m versatile,” joked Carrawell.
“I think I played a good all-around game tonight. It started on the defensive end, that was my main focus. I went back to the bench with about 15 minutes to go in the first half, and Coach told me I was going to be on McIntyre the whole way out. So my focus goes from guarding a shooter (Solomon) to guarding Mr. Everything.
“I just stepped up to the challenge and the other stuff just fell into place. I made a few good passes and hit a couple shots. On a team like this, you really have to find the spots where you can elevate your game.”
DEJA BLUE: Duke seems to have a knack for handing Clemson some of its largest margins of defeat. The last time the Tigers lost by more than 20 points was 94 games ago, an 83-53 setback to Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 3, 1996. The last time the Tigers lost by more than 20 in Littlejohn also came against Duke — a 99-70 setback on January 26, 1991.
TIME FLIES: Entering the game, Duke had trailed for a combined 2:36 in their six previous ACC matchups, and the Blue Devils hadn’t trailed at all in their last four contests. On Wednesday, Clemson jumped out to a fast start and held a lead for a total of 10:23, all of which was in the first half.
FOR EXAMPLE: In case you’re wondering what Elton Brand meant when he spoke of the Blue Devils’ determination to play “Duke basketball” in the second half, fast forward your tape of the game until there’s 11 minutes remaining. Now watch the next 8:30 minutes. After struggling to make much headway in the paint in the first half, Duke went on a 20-3 run powered by three dunks, four layups and a pair of short turnarounds by Brand. Much of it started with their defense, whether it was from William Avery forcing a turnover by tying up Harold Jamison as he tried to dribble near midcourt or one of Brand’s four blocks or one of Battier’s four steals.
“The second half, they hit some threes, but what did it for them was that they started getting baskets in transition,” said McIntyre. “In the first half, they only had two points in transition. That really was the difference in the game. For the bulk of the second half, they got eay baskets.”
HIGH PRAISE: Clemson head coach Larry Shyatt offered very high praise of the Blue Devils in his postgame comments.
“I think they’re the most talented college basketball team I’ve seen assembled in my 25 years (in the sport),” said Shyatt. “Of some of the more talented (teams), I think they’re the finest coached and they’re definitely the finest young men. They share the attributes that truly represent college basketball.
NAME THAT TUNE: The first song to play when Clemson came out for pregame warmup was “Tubthumping.” Whether it was intentionally played or not, its chorus of, “I get knocked down, but I get up again” was very appropriate for a team that is now 1-5 in ACC play.
CRYPTIC SIGN OF THE NIGHT: Behind the Clemson bench, a student held up a sign reading, “Merl Likes Cheese.” In case you’re wondering, it was an homage to his roommate, not an obscure reference to Clemson alumnus Merl Code.
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