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Duke 78, Clemson 56

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DURHAM, N.C. — Senior guard Quinn Cook’s 27 points and freshman forward Justise Winslow’s 20 helped make up for the absence of Jahlil Okafor as fourth-ranked Duke, playing without its leading scorer and rebounder, defeated Clemson, 78-56, on Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Winslow had 17 first-half points and Cook, who made 11-of-18 shots from the field, picked up the slack in the second half.

Guards Tyus Jones and Grayson Allen added 11 and 10 points, respectively, for Duke (24-3, 11-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference), which remained two games behind first-place Virginia. Jones added nine assists.

Okafor, a freshman center, sustained an injured left ankle in the first half Wednesday night against North Carolina.

Less than an hour before tip-off, the school announced that Okafor would miss the game. Even though he returned to Wednesday night’s game and made a go-ahead basket in overtime, he wasn’t in uniform for the first time this season.

Forward Jaron Blossomgame scored 10 points for Clemson (15-12, 7-8), which was in desperate need of an impressive outcome to bolster its postseason possibilities.

Duke, which was reduced to a seven-player rotation, became the first Clemson opponent to score more than 65 points since the Tigers gave up 74 to North Carolina in their ACC opener 14 games ago.

The Blue Devils shot 51.7 percent from the field.

Clemson reserve guard Gabe DeVoe, who entered the game with four points this season, made his second 3-pointer of the game to pull Clemson to within 48-37.

Cook and Allen hit 3-pointers for Duke’s only points during a stretch of nearly six minutes early in the second half. Those baskets were enough for the Blue Devils to maintain a double-digit lead.

Then Cook drained another 3-pointer and scored twice in transition as Duke pulled away, going up, 68-45, with about eight minutes left.

Earlier, Duke got it going in transition and built a 42-27 halftime lead.

The score was tied, 13-13, before Duke began going to work.

The Blue Devils pulled away late in the first half, building a 34-20 lead, with Winslow accounting for 16 of those points.

Even without Okafor, 16 of Duke’s first 20 points were scored by freshmen.

Duke used guard Matt Jones in the starting lineup in place of Okafor, giving the Blue Devils a smaller unit than normal.

Okafor is averaging team highs of 17.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. He has shot 66.1 percent from the field this season while scoring in double figures in every game. That includes 10 double-doubles.

In some projections, Okafor, who is 6-foot-11 and 270 pounds, could be the first selection in the NBA Draft if he turns pro after this season.

NOTES: It was the only scheduled meeting between the teams this season. … Last March, Duke claimed a one-point decision over Clemson in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals. … Duke C Jahlil Okafor was part of a three-freshman group that had started every game this season until he sat out Saturday because of a left ankle injury. … ESPN didn’t assign commentator Dick Vitale to Wednesday’s North Carolina/Duke game and that drew considerable commentary. He was on the call for Saturday’s game vs. Clemson. … Duke plays Wednesday night at Virginia Tech. Clemson is off until next Saturday’s home game against Georgia Tech, marking the second meeting between the teams in under two weeks.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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