Freshman forward Kenny Oennad, Duke's unknown soldier this season, used a new delivery for his deadly jump shot and promoted the Blue Devils from a three-star to a four-star team yesterday.
While Duke's glamor trio -- Jim Spanarkel, Eugene Banks and Mike Gminski -- tussled with Clemson's double-teaming defense, Dennard fired in 10 of 14 shots and scored 22 points, a seaon high. He led the Blue Devils to an expected victory, 83-72, over Clemson in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament yesterday.
Duke (21-6) advanced to tonight's 9 o'clock semifinal against the winner of last night's Maryland-N.C. State game. Clemson ended its season with a 16-11 record.
Duke had toyed with Clemson in both regular-season meetings, winning by 22 and 16 points, and yesterday afternoon in Greensboro Coliseum, the Blue Devils blazed to a 40-28 halftime lead as the Tigers shot 35 per cent.
The lead ballooned to 48-28 with the help of two Dennard 22-footers. The Tigers, outmanned and outsized, were out of the fight the rest of the way, pulling no closer than the final margin.
"They threw Dennard a couple of cross-court passes, and Dennard checked first to see if he was inbounds before he shot," Clemson Coach Bill Foster said.
"With players like Spanarkel (12 points), Banks (14) and Gminski (20), we sort of had to play our five men on their three. Dennard was the guy we wanted to shoot from outside our zone, and he did. When he hits, it adds another dimension to their offense.
Clemson was having enough trouble with the original dimensions, and it could not have known Dennard had huddled two days ago with assistant coach Bob Wenzel and was advised to begin his jumper from in front of his face instead of behind his right ear.
"It was just an experiment," Dennard said. "If it didn't work, we were going to scrap it. I felt very confident and relaxed coming into the game. I wasn't feeling confident before."
Duke shot 56 percent for its first opening-round ACC tourney victory since 1972.
"I used to bring one handkerchief to this thing. This time, we convinced everyone to pack for the whole week." said Duke's coach, also named Bill Foster. "That was the biggest thing for us to overcome."
John Harrell, a Duke starter at guard fell to the floor and hit his head in the second half trying to catch a long pass. He was revived with smelling salts and was described by his coach as being "not that alert" in the dressing room. Harrell reportedly experienced some hearing difficulty.
It was the last game for Clemson Seniors Stan Rome (who made only one of four shots), Colon Abraham (14 points) and Jim Howell (four points).