DURHAM, N.C. -- Forget about those moral victories that sometimes come in defeat.
With an 81-80 loss to No. 2 Duke on Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Clemson would just spend the balance of the weekend agonizing over how close it came to scoring one of the monumental wins in school history.
"These guys didn't just come up here to stay in the ballgame, we came in here thinking we could beat Duke University," said Clemson coach Rick Barnes, whose Tigers last stunned the Cameron Crazies with a 75-70 win in 1995 but are now 4-47 lifetime at Duke.
"They'll take this loss very hard because of how they fought back. But the fact that we did come back and put ourselves into a position to win the game is a great compliment to our basketball team."
Clemson not only erased a 24-point second-half deficit. In one of college basketball's most hostile environments, the Tigers were miraculously in position to win at the buzzer against the Atlantic Coast Conference front-running Blue Devils.
But Terrell McIntyre's pull-up jumper with six seconds left clanked the front rim and Iker Iturbe got the rebound and launched a 12-foot baseline jumper that rimmed out as the horn blared.
"That's the shot we wanted," said McIntyre, who appeared unaffected by the nagging foot injury he suffered in December, leading five double-digit Clemson scorers with 17 points in 34 minutes. "We got two shots off and they didn't go down for us. It's hard to take anything positive out of a loss but at least we know we didn't quit. This team found out that if they continue to fight, good things will start to happen."
Clemson (11-6, 2-3 in the ACC) is only the third team to score 80-or-more points against Duke (16-1, 6-0) this season. The Blue Devils, who probably will reclaim the No. 1 ranking on Monday, lead the nation in margin of victory (32.5 points per win).
But the Tigers closed what seemed an insurmountable gap and made the thrilling final possession possible by hitting 14 of its last 16 shots while wearing the Blue Devils out down the stretch. Duke shot 3-for-13 from the field and turned it over five times in the game's final 11:30.
None of those turnovers were as potentially lethal than the last, when Duke senior Steve Wojciechowski fumbled an inbounds pass out of bounds, setting up the game's final possession with 9.6 seconds remaining.
"We found someone that really wore us down," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said of Clemson, which has never beaten a team ranked No. 2-or-higher on the road. "We feel fortunate to win but we felt we earned the win, too. The fact is (Clemson's) depth can match ours, and it wore us down."
Barnes said there would be no talk of moral victories from him this weekend as Clemson gets ready to host Virginia on Tuesday.
"This isn't a character-builder for us because I think we've already got character," Barnes said. "You don't feel very good about losing a game like this because we didn't play very well in the first half."
Imagine if Clemson didn't shoot just 37.5 percent in the first half and turn it over 11 times. Then what?
"We'd be celebrating right now," senior Greg Buckner said. "I promise you that."
CLEMSON (80) -- Iturbe 3-10 6-10 12, Christie 2-6 2-4 6, Wideman 0-1 0-2 0, Miller 2-3 1-1 5, Buckner 6-9 1-1 13, McIntyre 5-11 5-5 17, Jamison 6-9 0-2 12, Woni 1-2 0-0 2, Whitt 5-8 3-4 13, Allenspach 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 30-61 18-29 80.
DUKE (81) -- McLeod 5-16 8-12 19, Chappell 4-10 2-4 11, Domzalski 1-2 0-0 2, Wojciechowski 0-5 2-2 2, Langdon 7-11 5-5 23, Carrawell 2-8 6-7 10, Battier 2-5 0-0 4, Avery 2-10 2-2 8, Burgess 0-2 0-0 0, Price 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 23-69 27-34 81.
Halftime -- Duke 43-27.
3-point goals -- Clemson 2-8 (McIntyre 2-5, Christie 0-1, Miller 0-1, Buckner 0-1), Duke 8-24 (Langdon 4-8, Avery 2-5, McLeod 1-2, Chappell 1-4, Carrawell 0-1, Wojciechowski 0-4). Fouled out -- Wideman. Rebounds -- Clemson 42 (Iturbe 7), Duke 42 (Domzlaski 10). Assists -- Clemson 12 (McIntrye 6), Duke 11 (Wojciechowski 4). Total Fouls -- Clemson 28, Duke 23. A -- 9,314.