CLEMSON — They skidded across the floor chasing down loose balls.
Virtually every missed shot was followed and fought for.
Each time they got knocked back on their heels, they regained their balance.
For 40 minutes on Saturday at a packed Littlejohn Coliseum, the Clemson Tigers (11-4, 2-1 ACC) outworked the No. 16 Duke Blue Devils (12-4, 1-2).
They outplayed them, too.
Clemson 72, No. 16 Duke 59
K.J. McDaniels scored 24 points and led four players in double figures as Clemson stunned Duke, 72-59 — a win that sent students flooding onto the floor.
The Blue Devils missed their last 13 shots and were held without a basket over the final 6:22 of the game. Brad Brownell’s team also owned the glass, outrebounding Mike Krzyzewski’s squad by a staggering 48-30 margin.
“This was certainly a great team win and I’m really proud of our players for showing a lot of resiliency, not only with the quick turnaround but also from halftime,” Brownell said. “I thought we played exceptionally well in the second half and gained confidence throughout the game on both sides.”
After trailing by as many as 10 points in the first half, the Tigers took over midway through the second.
The victors shot 52 percent in the second half and finished 25-for-53 (47 percent).
“Coach Brownell told us to come out and not worry about the name on the jersey,” said McDaniels, who also had 14 rebounds. “It was just hard work (on our part). We believed we could do it. We made them miss shots they usually make.”
Duke freshman standout Jabari Parker was limited to 15 points with McDaniels and Jaron Blossomgame taking turns shadowing him.
“J.B. stuck on him good and when we had to switch we were able to hold him down,” McDaniels said.
Blossomgame had 14 points and 14 boards while center Landry Nnoko had 10 points and 10 rebounds to provide the Tigers with inside domination and three double-double efforts.
Guard Rod Hall chipped in 11 points for the winners.
“It was great to see Jaron play at his level with his capabilities,” Brownell said. “Rod and Nnoko, along with Jaron, were huge. And K.J. was the guy who really kept us in the game in the first half and gave us every opportunity to stay within striking distance. I think he was one of the guys who settled us down early and gave us the belief that we could win.
“Obviously as the game went along, I think we convinced ourselves that we could win.”
The game was a far cry from the Tigers’ 56-41 home loss to Florida State on Thursday.
“We knew we had to forget about that because we had a big opportunity ahead of us,” Blossomgame said. “I made a couple of buckets early and started feeling pretty good and we just played better as the game went on.
“It was a big game and we knew we were going to come out with a lot of energy.”
Blossomgame sparked the comeback when his 3-pointer at the 9:28 mark gave the Tigers their first lead of the second half at 52-50.
Duke managed just nine points the rest of the way.
In beating the Devils for the first time since the 2008-09 season, Clemson caused a dip in their league leading 84.3 points per game output in 2013-14.
“Our defense was terrific after halftime and that was what enabled us to win,” Brownell said. “They’re an offensive juggernaut. We’re known for our defense and I think every good program stands for something. If you don’t have something that your program stands for, you’re going to struggle.”
The Tigers opened up a 7-2 lead early but once Duke moved in front 8-7 on a Parker 3-pointer, the Blue Devils showed the way for the remainder of the half.
McDaniels and company, however, refused to let them run away.
McDaniels did his part, netting 17 points over the first 20 minutes and going 6-of-7 from the foul line. Blossomgame helped his team with five rebounds as Clemson owned a 20-15 rebounding edge — an edge that grew much larger as the game wore on.
Rodney Hood had 11 Duke points (he finished with 20) and Parker added 10, but each time Coach K’s crew went on a spurt, the Tigers were able to answer.
When the horn sounded to signal intermission the Blue Devils led 37-31, but had hardly wrapped things up.
Instead, things would unravel for the Blue Devils after halftime.
“They were terrific, and we need to get a lot better,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re not very good right now and that’s on me as a coach. I never bad mouth my team or any guy. We win together, we lose together, but we’re not very good right now and we’ve got to take steps to try to get to be good, because the league is unforgiving.”
Clemson returns to action on Wednesday at Virginia Tech.