CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson coach Itoro Coleman knows all too well you can't win games in the Atlantic Coast Conference with the mistakes her team made against No. 4 Duke.
Tricia Liston came off the bench to score 22 points and the Blue Devils bounced back from a blowout loss earlier in the week with their 17th straight victory over Clemson, 60-46, on Thursday night.
Coleman was a star guard with the Lady Tigers who helped them to a pair of ACC championships in 1996 and 1999. She's trying to build a similarly strong team as coach, yet watched her players commit 31 turnovers and give up 21 steals in the latest loss to Duke.
Clemson held a 26-23 with about 11 minutes left, but Duke toughened up with the game on the line during a 26-9 run to take control.
"I think that was the tale of the game," Coleman said. "We take care of the ball, we get more possessions at the basket and who knows."
Instead, Coleman heads back to the chalk board. The Lady Tigers won their first ACC game of the season last time out at Wake Forest and had hoped to build on that effort against Duke.
Coleman liked what she saw most of the way and sees her players closing in on learning how to close out such upset chances.
"We need to recognize that when we play these teams, the margin of error is very slim," she said. "So the little things matter. We need to grow from this."
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie thinks her players will grow from this victory, too.
Liston led a second-half rally as Duke (17-1, 7-0) bounced back from a 79-49 loss at No. 3 Connecticut on Monday night.
Liston said the illness wasn't serious and she wasn't going to let it slow her down at Littlejohn Coliseum.
"I think I was just focused on coming in and being aggressive," Liston said. "Trying to impact and bring more energy from the bench."
Liston did that, especially in the second half when she scored 14 of her points and led a 26-9 run midway through the final period that gave Duke control for good.
McCallie acknowledged this group took a little bit longer than others she's coached to get past what happened at Connecticut earlier in the week. The Blue Devils had been the last remaining undefeated team – men's or women's – in Division I and had hoped to make a statement against the powerhouse Huskies.
Instead, Duke fell apart in the second half, outscored 47-19 and eager to get back to playing the kind of basketball it had much of this season. There were plenty of glaring problems in this one for the Blue Devils.
They shot a season low 33.9 percent (21 of 62) and surpassed the 20-turnover mark (they had 22) for just the second time this season. Their 60 points were their third fewest of the season and well below their scoring average of better than 77 points coming in.
Liston said the players watched the film and zoned in on their mistakes against Connecticut.
"We've got to make sure we don't make them in the future," she said. "As for right now, we've put that game behind us and we're focused on the ACC."
McCallie said the trip to the Northeast was a good experience. "It's a long way away, it's a very physical game, then to have to turn around quickly and come on down to Clemson, that's part of it," the coach said. "I think this will help us mature and grow even more."
The Lady Tigers (5-13, 1-6) led 26-23 after Quinyotta Pettaway's foul shots with 13:34 to play as Duke missed its first 11 shots of the period. That's when Liston began the Blue Devils' charge with a 3-pointer and hit two jumpers to put Duke ahead for good.
Elizabeth Williams added 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Blue Devils.
Nikki Dixon had 17 points to lead the Tigers.
Liston finished a point from her career scoring best. She made four of Duke's five 3-pointers and rescued the Blue Devils on a poor shooting night. Duke's defense, though, helped turn the tide and forced 31 turnovers off 21 steals. Chelsea Gray had a career-high nine steals for the Blue Devils.
Duke was counting on a strong bounce back at Clemson, a team it had beaten 82-45 two weeks ago at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Instead, the bad shooting and mistakes that cost the Blue Devils in their last game surfaced again at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Duke committed 17 turnovers in the opening half – it had just 15 all game against Connecticut – and shot a dismal 31 percent (9 of 29) from the field. The Blue Devils were ahead 21-14 after Williams' inside shot with 5:56 to go before the break, then did not make another field goal the rest of the period.
The Blue Devils' starters combined for just five field goals. Alexis Jones and Gray combined for nine of the team's turnovers. Williams, fifth in ACC scoring, was held to five points in the opening half.
Duke's defense kept Clemson from taking advantage, although the Lady Tigers scratched out an 8-1 run at the end to tie things at 22-all when Aisha Turner banked home a jumper at the buzzer.