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Quotes: Duke 64, Clemson 62
Courtesy: Duke Sports Information
Release: 02/11/2017
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Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski
Opening Statement:
“I’m proud of my guys. They had to fight. First of all, we beat a really good Clemson team. Clemson has had the most tough losses of anybody. If you gave Brad [Brownell] six possessions, it would be in the first division, you know. That is how crazy our league is. Look, Thursday’s game was huge. If you ask anybody in the gym who was at Thursday’s game, “How do they feel?” they would say, “I feel different than I did Thursday.” “Are you emotional yet?” “I am not as emotional.” It is because you are a human being. Basically, in order to win at times, you cannot be normal. You cannot be normal. You have to fight human nature. It is not about attitude or being ready to play. Our kids are ready to play. It is just about how much you have in the tank. It is not so much always physical stuff, but it is emotional. In fact, most of the time it is emotional, and that is the toughest tire. I thought we had started the game without it, and that is why I called a timeout. I mean for the last 48 hours that is what we have been trying to do. This will be our toughest game, and it was our best win. This was our best win because you had a really good Clemson team, you had human nature, and you had to do things in 48 hours. After that, our defense was magnificent in the first-half. They did not get any threes. Overall, Matt [Jones] did a great job on [Jaron] Blossomgame, and he did a good job on [Justin] Jackson too [on Thursday night]. You know, Jackson could have had 40 if he had not guarded him. He had 20-something or 21, maybe. In the start of the second-half, after stopping, it was a game that you would have liked to continue with no halftime. Let’s not have a halftime. Let’s just keep playing. Once you are there, rationalization comes in. Your left and right shoulder people are saying, ‘Hey, we got a lead. You can take it easy in the second-half.’ The right shoulder is saying, ‘Hey knucklehead, we have to come out even harder, boom, boom, boom.’ It is rationalization. It is what we have had to fight when you win a national championship and win a gold medal, whatever. In order to be really good, you have to beat that. I know that. I know that because I have been in it more than anybody, and I have lost because we have not beaten that. Today, we were fortunate enough to beat it. Towards the end of the game, we went almost exclusively to Luke [Kennard]. We liked the match-up, and we put a little bit of a new thing in at the timeout. Then, we were able to run our stuff. We did not want to use the whole clock, but we wanted to put them in a position to foul us. And they did. Then, we hit free-throws. We fouled them a couple of times on plays that we should not have. Their one-three-one [zone] was good, but we still got good looks and were not able to knock it down. The last six seconds, I thought we did not want to call a timeout because they did not have any. We doubled [Shelton] Mitchell, and [Sidy] Djitte got the ball. Those two seconds were critical, and Luke almost got it. We doubled Mitchell again, so when he had to come back, we took away the lay-up. You know, now he has to take a three and go to the right. It is a little push-off, and then he goes up but lost control. Then, Matt came in after. Those two things by our to team, to get Djitte for two seconds and get Mitchell in the back court were really big things to do. Yeah, at the end of the game, you thank God that you won. Our guys need to get away from the game for a little bit here. They have done a great job. I feel bad for Brad’s team because I have watched six of their games. Five that I watched, they could have won easy with one possession. This was another one, and that is the heartbreak of our league. That is the heartbreak of our league.”

On Matt Jones emerging as a defensive stop:
“Well, he has been there. One, he played for a great high school coach who taught him how to play defense. When he came here, he already knew, and then he got better at it. He understands for any of us in any group to understand our value not what somebody determines your value to be. But, you understand your value. If you understand your value, then you will do your job well. He has a toughness, and he is really the toughest defender that we have. He is also a really tough mental guy. He fight through tired. I do not know if you saw him, but we are trying to just squeeze every little bit of toothpaste out of the tube here. Matt is yelling at our guys and trying to get them, so he is using a lot of his emotion. That is what I need from a veteran. He was so valuable again and again for us.”

On the team’s maturity:
“They listen.  Again, I didn’t want to call a timeout so he could set something up.  So now you’re counting on these guys to do what they’re supposed to do and they did.  They did.  That’s another step forward for our group.  These last couple weeks we’ve grown a lot.  I’m not saying we’re this great team, but we’re a team and we’re getting better and we’ve been really very tough, we’ve been very tough so hopefully we can keep that going.”

Duke Graduate Student Amile Jefferson
When asked what Duke’s mindset was in the second half when Clemson fought back:
“To just keep playing and to stay poised.  We’ve been through so many situations together. They’re starting to be second nature for our team, where we’re becoming a team.  And when you have that bond, it shows down the stretch.  It shows in that final minute-and-a-half when the game is going either way and going both ways, swinging.  We’re becoming a team and tonight was a huge step.  To beat a team like this that’s really talented, really good, on the last possession, it builds character in our group.”

On how Duke got through the stretch in the second half when they went without a made field goal for over six minutes:
“[Clemson] actually made a run when that happened, and I think they even took the lead.  Coach [Mike Krzyzewski] was just on us, ‘Stay in it.  Stay in it.’  And we did that. Every time they made a big play, we came down and made a big play when the game got close.  That was huge for our guys, to be very poised.’’

On Duke’s defensive strategy for the final possession of the game:
“It was about not giving up a three and trying to make them take a tough two.  Right when one of their guards had the ball and he drove and we stunted, and it was a great stunt and I think he lost it a little bit when he went up to shoot and time expired.  They’re a really good team and they’ve lost several games like that, but it just goes to show how tough our league is.  We have the best league in the country, and all the teams in it are really good teams.”

On what is different for Luke Kennard this year versus last year:
 “I saw him doing that stuff last year.  I think you saw him doing that stuff last year, but it just wasn’t as consistent I guess.  That’s the biggest thing – he’s consistent.  He’s worked on his body and he’s worked on his game, and he’s truly confident now.  He’s confident in his shot, he’s confident in his playmaking ability, and when guys were down, he stepped up.  When we started out this season, we had our mindset as one thing, and injuries or adversity distracted us from that.  When that happened, he rose to the occasion.”

Duke Senior Matt Jones
“It was a big win for us, especially after Thursday’s win [against North Carolina].  It could’ve been easy for us to come in and be like, ‘Hey we won a big game and we can let this one down,’ but for us to come in and fight and find a way to win against a very good Clemson team, we’ll definitely take this win.”

“We’ve been in a lot of close situations, whether it be down four against UNC or down against [Clemson] late, but we’re fighting and we’re slowly but surely finding ways to win.  And that’s the most important thing, especially coming into March.”

“Today’s game was just fighting human nature.  We’re starting to learn how to win and guys don’t get scared when we get down late.  Instead, they view it as an opportunity, and that’s a really good trait that we have right now.”

On the similarities between the NCAA Tournament and the last 48 hours with tough games against North Carolina and Clemson:
“We always keep that in mind.  Whether it be a Thursday-Saturday or a Friday-Sunday, you’ve got to get back on the horse.  That’s what the championship teams do – they are uncommon and they beat human nature.  If we want to get to that level, then we have to beat human nature as well.”

Duke Freshman Jayson Tatum
“We knew that this was going to be tough, especially on our legs, but we just had to fight through it.  Clemson is a good team but we battled hard today and came out with the win.”

When asked if Duke felt any fatigue in the game today after such a short recovery time after the game against North Carolina:
“I think more in the second half we felt it.  But it just took a collective effort to get it done.  Guys are tired but we’ve got a few days off now, so I think that’ll help us.”

“Luke was tremendous tonight.  I think most of us were tired and shots weren’t falling, but Luke found it and was on a roll and we kept finding him.  He helped us out a lot tonight.”

Clemson Head Coach Brad Brownell
Opening Statement:
“Well, unfortunately a little bit more of the same for us. I thought my kids played their hearts out and defended as well as we’ve defended all year against a very talented team. Played with great poise in a difficult environment, got knocked down probably two or three times during the game and was just able to battle back. Offensively, we didn’t play very well in the first half. I thought that we got to some good places but we just didn’t make shots. In the second half we did a better job, obviously Shelton Mitchell was able to get into the paint and help us that way. Unfortunately we just couldn’t come away with the last basket to win the game.”

On the team’s improvements in the second half:
“Well, I think a little bit of it was just settling into the game and finishing plays. It’s not like we were turning the ball over in the first half, we just didn’t make shots and I thought we got a lot of good shots. You know, we’re a better offensive team than the first half; we’re more like the second half team. We do have multiple guys that can score, so we can spread you out a little bit and do some things to get into the paint and make it hard. I thought we just did a little bit better of a job converting and maybe got a couple of baskets in transition that we didn’t get in the first half.”

On Shelton Mitchell’s performance:
“Well it was important. They did a good job on Jaron [Blossomgame], you know kind of came with a little soft double at times on the bounce and we had to find some other ways to get baskets. Duke does a great job of, they really defend your three. They don’t help much when you drive, so they force you to make individual plays over big, strong, athletic people. Then at the other end they want to make threes and kind of win the game through that. I thought our guys just did a better job in the second half of doing that. I thought Shelton was really, really good and hopefully his good play will continue.”

On the close losses this season:
“You just don’t. You don’t need to talk about a lot, you talk about the things that you, that you, the positive things that came from this. At halftime, our locker room was really down and I actually went in there and told them, ‘Guys, I’m just as proud of you now as I ever have been this season because we just guarded one of the best teams in the country as well as anyone in the country for a half.’ And I said, ‘If you can guard them the same way in the second half we will score and we’ll have a chance to win the game.’ Now we didn’t quite get it done, they got 35 instead of 29, but I knew our offense would come back. You know, give our kids a lot of credit; we took a major punch in the gut this week on that loss against Syracuse. We’ve been a little snake bit, but at the end of the day we’ve got to figure out ways to make the winning plays to change these things. It’s not enough to come here and try to feel good about losing by two. That’s not what this is about and Clemson basketball has to get past that. There is a stigma sometimes and it’s a stigma with a lot of people, some involved in the games, that that’s okay and it’s not. We had every right and chance to win this game, we just didn’t quite get it done.”

On guarding the perimeter in the second half:
“I mean, we did better. Certainly Luke Kennard was fantastic in the second half and we couldn’t stop him there for a while. He was scoring and getting to the free throw line a good bit. You know, I thought [Jayson] Tatum made a huge three for them late and [Frank] Jackson was very good early. They just have great depth. They have a lot of talented players and you just try to hang in there and make them take tough shots. The best thing we did today, we rebounded the basketball, which we haven’t been very good at this year and it gave us opportunities, when we did contest and do our jobs, to get back down the floor. We’re a little bit better defensively than our numbers show. We’re not a lot better, but we are a little bit better. We just, we’ve been giving up 20 offensive rebounds, 15 offensive rebounds. We’re obviously doing something right to get them to miss the first shot, but when you don’t get the second one we’re not that good. So we did a better job of that tonight.”