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January 25, 2007A mental gaffe by Duke in the closing seconds seemingly had set the stage for overtime at Cameron Indoor Stadium, but it actually just paved the way for a pulsating finish.
Often unheralded David McClure took a bullet of a pass from Jon Scheyer and converted a layup at the buzzer to give the Blue Devils a 68-66 heart stopping victory over the 17th ranked Clemson Tigers to cap a wild ride of emotions inside Cameron.
Duke appeared to have the game in hand when Gerald Henderson converted two free throws with 12 seconds remaining to put the Blue Devils up 66-61, but Clemson's Vernon Hamilton scored a quick basket on the other end and then was the beneficiary of a communication mishap between Josh McRoberts and Greg Paulus.
McRoberts' inbounds pass intended for Paulus went straight to Hamilton after Paulus made a cut and vacated the area where McRoberts aimed his pass.
The Clemson senior calmly took the steal and sank a three pointer from just to the right of the top of the key to tie the score and turn Cameron Indoor Stadium from pulsating to silent.
The Blue Devils had a chance to regroup as the officials convened to determine how much time should be remaining, and after a brief break, 4.4 seconds were put back on the clock, which is exactly the amount of time Duke needed.
Scheyer took the inbounds pass in front of the Cameron Crazies, dribbled across the timeline against pressure, and whipped a pass to McClure who was at the rim all alone.
The layup came just in the nick of time, sending Cameron back into euphoria reminiscent of last year's scene when a halfcourt bomb from Sean Dockery elevated Duke to victory over Virginia Tech.
Even though Duke won by just two points, the Blue Devils took the fight to Clemson for much of the night, in many ways beating the Tigers at their own game.
Duke pounded Clemson on the boards, outrebounding the Tigers 40-24, including a whopping 17-6 edge on the offensive glass, a huge accomplishment considering Clemson entered the night averaging more than 15 offensive rebounds per game.
McRoberts, despite committing the costly turnover in the closing seconds and five turnovers overall, controlled the game for Duke by scoring 17 points and pulling down 12 rebounds, including six on the offensive glass.
He was joined in double figures by DeMarcus Nelson and Greg Paulus, who each had 13 points, and Scheyer also hit for double figures with 12 on the night.
Duke dominated the closing minutes of the first half to break open a tight game and take a 36-25 lead into halftime.
Clemson took a 23-22 lead on a Hamilton three pointer with 5:34 left in the first half, but the Blue Devils responded with a three from Henderson, which sparked a 13-2 run over the final minutes to give Duke momentum at halftime.
Clemson never went away though. The Tigers made a few pushes throughout the second half but Duke kept finding answers to keep them at arm's length.
The gap narrowed to 47-44 when K.C. Rivers canned a three pointer with 12:32 remaining, but McRoberts immediately countered with a trey on the other end to push the margin back to six at 50-44.
Hamilton cut the margin to three again at the 6:53 mark, but Scheyer immediately nailed a three pointer to once again knock the Tigers back.
It wasn't until the closing minutes that Clemson really made a run at victory.
The Tigers went on an 8-0 run to tie the game 60-60 with under four minutes to play, knotting the score when James Mays stole the ball from Paulus under the Duke basket and scored an easy layup.
Scheyer and Henderson converted six straight free throws to nearly put the game away, but then the final events unfolded in most unexpected fashion.
McClure finished the game with eight points and six rebounds, but it was his final basket at the end that will always be remembered.
Hamilton's 21 points led Clemson.
Duke improved to 4-2 in the ACC to pull within striking distance of the ACC lead.
ACC leader Boston College comes to Durham Sunday night, when former Duke great Shelden Williams will have his jersey number sent to the rafters.