Lately, Duke has gotten used to an easy game from Georgia Tech. Duke won
98-77, but Georgia Tech worried Duke throughout this game and served noticed
that times have changed, and that they will no longer be pushovers, not for Duke
or anyone else.
The game started with a nice offensive outburst by Jason Williams, who was
responsible for the first 15 points of the game, between shots and an assist,
and who at one point outscored Tech 11-7.
Duke looked as if they might pull away early, but Tech, as they would do all
afternoon, batted back into the game. Showing a scrappy offense and a superbly
conditioned, never say die defense, Tech, despite the score was reasonably
competitive and not that far from being able to give Duke a real game. They ran
into trouble on a few particular fronts:
- shots not going down
- emotions got out of hand
Tech eventually got more careful with the ball, but early in the game they
were letting it go with alarming regularity (alarming if you're a Tech fan that
is). Duke exploited this relentlessly, from Boozer's steal and breakaway,
to a pickoff by Williams of an inbounds pass to several others. This put
Tech in a hole they tried very hard to crawl out of but never quite managed to
Partly that was because of their abysmal shooting. They shot .344 for
the game, and actually shot a good bit better from 3 point range at .412.
Alvin Jones, their one legitimate inside threat, only hit 50%, not what you'd
expect from a reasonably productive big man who towered over the rest of the
Finally, emotions. As has happened so often in his career, Alvin Jones lost
it on the court, getting a technical in the first half and four fouls. Hewitt
chose to sit him for much of the second half, and Jones only got 14 minutes for
the game. Since he is pretty well recognized as Tech's indispensable player, and
since their game plan centered around his getting Duke in foul trouble instead
of vice-versa, he really let them down. He was very upset after the game and
said he was going to write a letter of apology to his teammates.
And for the second game in a row, Duke had a scrappy, undersized (Jones
aside) opponent who opted for a very physical game, Michael Isenhour in
particular. By the time Boozer elbowed him, he had already given Dunleavy
a cheap shot on the foul line, and when he retaliated and 'bowed Boozer back,
the refs caught him.
They also called an intentional foul when a Tech player - Sean Fein? - took
Jason Williams out on a turnover-caused fast break.
All in all, it was a much more physical, macho performance than Tech has put
on in the last few years. And when you look back at the B.C. game, and the
level of woofing B.C. did, and the various ways they tried to provoke responses
from Duke players, you start to see a possible pattern emerge, which is brutally
simple: get to a Duke player, get him to lose his head, and you change the odds
Did B.C. do that? We're not sure. We don't think Tech did. But clearly it's
one way for teams to attack a Duke team which has anything but a deep
bench. And even if it's just a physical attempt to pile up fouls, it
worked: Dunleavy, Boozer, James and Duhon all had four, and Williams had three.
Even as Alvin Jones crumbled in the first half, Carlos Boozer had one of his
better performances, particularly against a bigger man. Boozer has periodically
struggled against guys like Jones and Haywood, but tonight he took it to Jones
and thoroughly outplayed him, and then his teammates after Jones was out.
He shot 7-11 and had 9 boards for a very solid performance.
Nate James and Mike Dunleavy both had erratic games we thought. In the
opening minutes, Dunleavy was periodically awful, and later fired up an airball.
He did however make several smart cuts to the basket and had a couple of nice
James just has had two off games in a row, in our opinion, and it's hard to
say why. Let's hope he left the problem, whatever it is, in Atlanta.
In the second half, despite Duke's lead, with the foul trouble Duke was in
and Tech's new-found resilience, the outcome was still in question. Enter
Battier, who scored 20 straight points for Duke. We can't remember
the last time someone exploded like that at Duke - maybe Grant
Hill. It was stunning to realize he had exploded for that much.
Battier ended with 34 points, 7 boards, 5 blocks, 3 assists, and 2 steals.
That's an amazing line.
The last two games have been very physical, as we said, and that's not going
to stop soon - next up Duke has, in order, the very physical Wake Forest,
then Maryland, followed by UNC. Up the conference ladder, as it were. It's
a very key stretch, and how Duke handles it is vitally important to the rest of