for this game

Clemson snaps losing streak to Duke, advances to ACC title game

Mar 16, 2008 - 1:58 AM CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Ticker) -- With a long-awaited victory over Duke, Clemson will make an even rarer appearance in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship.

Trevor Booker scored 18 points and Cliff Hammonds added 17 as the Tigers knocked off No. 7 Duke, 78-74, in the ACC semifinals on Saturday.

James Mays chipped in 16 points for Clemson, which snapped a 22-game losing streak to the Blue Devils.

With the win, Clemson (24-8) moves on to its first appearance in the ACC title game since 1962, when it takes on top-ranked North Carolina on Sunday. The Tigers had a pair of overtime losses to the Tar Heels during the regular season.

"I thought in a lot of ways it was the best game we played all year," Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. "We never lost our poise so overall I think we are playing as well as we have all year. I really feel like we are peaking at the right time and I really can't think back on all the big plays, but I really think we had that mentality and attitude of fighting."

Trailing by one at the break, the Tigers started the second half strong, scoring the first nine points - the last six by Booker - to take a 39-31 lead with 17:38 remaining.

Duke (27-5) fought back, eventually taking a 52-51 lead, but Clemson took charge as freshman Terrence Oglesby capped an 8-2 spurt with a 3-pointer to give the Tigers a 67-60 lead with 3:40 left.

Greg Paulus' 3-pointer cut the Blue Devils' deficit to 71-69 with 48 seconds left, but Duke could get no closer as Clemson made 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch to seal the win.

"I thought both teams played hard," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "It was a high-level game. They made a few more plays than us and they hit their free throws. If they hit their free throws, they are as good as anybody. We had some looks that we just missed."

Hammonds, who came into the game making just 44 percent of his foul shots, went 4-of-4.

"Free throws are going to be big for us in a big-time situation," Hammonds said. "We've been working on it each and every day and we just knew that if we stepped to the line with confidence, they're going to drop. That's the way I went to the line and (James) Mays went to the line."

The first half featured 10 lead changes as neither team established control.

Duke took its biggest lead at 25-19 after a jumper by Greg Paulus but Clemson rallied with an 11-2 run to take a 30-27 lead with under two minutes left in the half. But the Blue Devils would score the final four points before the break, taking a 31-30 lead at intermission.

Paulus finished with 17 points and DeMarcus Nelson added 14 and nine rebounds for the Blue Devils, who made just 6-of-26 3-pointers.

"They (Clemson) did a good job the last few minutes on switching the ball screens, using their length to press up and make us put the ball on the floor," Paulus said. "If we were to take a three, it was a contested, tough shot. They did a good job of that."

The loss denied Duke its 10th appearance in the last 11 years in the ACC championship game.