CLEMSON, S.C. -- Audra Smith scrapped with some of the toughest players in the Atlantic Coast Conference during her college days -- and that was just on her own team. So the former Virginia forward knows what it takes to win against the league's best and understands her first-year Clemson program doesn't have that yet.
"To be successful in this league you have to play with that type of intensity, that level of grit, that level of pride every single night," said Smith, who played alongside Cavaliers star Dawn Staley on three Final Four teams from 1990-92. "Yeah, it's hard, but it's what you have to do."
Smith's club held a 23-22 lead on No. 5 Duke in the final minute of the opening half on Thursday night, but got swamped by the Blue Devils the rest of the way in a 78-51 loss. It was the 18th straight loss in the series for the Tigers (11-13, 3-7 ACC), all but one by double digits.
Smith saw splashes of that effort, particularly in the first half when the Tigers forced 15 turnovers. But the Blue Devils (22-2, 9-1) scored three baskets in the final minute of the half to start a 32-12 run that ended Clemson's upset hopes.
"I've got to get us out of the habit of folding when times get hard," Smith said. "When things get tough, you've got to continue to fight, you've got to continue to compete."
That's what Duke did, particularly in the second half.
Haley Peters scored 17 points and Tricia Liston had 15 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Blue Devils, who bounced back from losing its previous game at home, 88-67, to new ACC rival and second-ranked Notre Dame.
"This was a good game for us to get our energy and our focus back to where we want it to be," Peters said. "And re-establish who we are in the conference."
Duke can do that in a huge way the next three games. It faces No. 13 North Carolina on Monday, then plays No. 10 Maryland on Feb. 17 before facing No. 14 North Carolina State on Feb. 20 -- a stretch sure to test their staying power in the super-sized ACC.
"It's funny that people mention it because our entire schedule has been that way," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "So it's no different to us that we've got difficult teams on the horizon."
Still, McCallie feels better about things after this win. She thought her players understood the mistakes they made against Notre Dame and were ready to put that behind them.
"Notre Dame plays at a high level and we didn't match that," she said. "That bothered us tremendously and I think that will be a driving force" the rest of the season.
"I think the biggest thing for us right is to take each game one at a time and take care of business in that game before looking ahead," Liston said.
The Blue Devils held Clemson's top scorer, Nikki Dixon, to 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting. Dixon had been averaging better than 14 points a game this season.