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Duke Survives A Gutty Tech Team, 82-74

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Now that's what we call an ACC game. Duke and Tech gave each other all
they had for forty minutes Saturday before Duke pulled away at the end,
82-74. But what a ride it was to get there, and what a gutty performance
by both teams.

Tech came out with fire in their eyes, and after Thursday's tough game with
Florida State, Duke was vulnerable, and showed it at the beginning. JJ
Redick was sick Thursday, Daniel Ewing was banged up, and Duke went with a
different starting lineup, sitting Ewing, and Luol Deng, who has not been at his
best in recent games.

Redick picked up two quick fouls, Shelden Williams banged up his knee,
and Tech was aggressive and confident, sprinting out to a 17-10 lead. Then came
the first major turning point in the game, as Redick went down with the ball,
and tried to call time out, and B.J. Elder tried to wrench the ball from him
after the whistle had blown.

Redick jumped up and let Elder know he didn't appreciate it; Elder shoved
him, Robert Brooks came into the frey from the bench, and Daniel Ewing jumped
into it as well.

T, T, T, T, and Brooks was ejected.

After that was sorted out, Duke went on an 11 point run.and was a different
team for the rest of the half, pulling out at a 37-32 halftime lead despite
Redick's sitting for the rest of the half.

Duke pushed out to a 9 point lead fairly quickly, but this Tech team made it
clear that they were no longer going to be Duke's patsy, and they fought
back. Most of the second half was nip and tuck, though Duke did build up
as much as a nine point lead. But Tech never caved, and the lead
dwindled down until the Yellow Jackets took it back at 62-61. Luol Deng
hit a key three pointer to put Duke out front again 64-62. Tech regained
the lead one final time at 66-64 at the 6:13 mark, but after that, Duke really
came through. Shavlik Randolph tied the score with a dunk, then Tech missed
several opportunities: Bynum missed a jumper, then Elder, then Jarret
Jack, then Anthony McHenry missed a 3, before Schenscher got a bucket at the
3:27 mark to tie it again at 68.

When Deng was fouled at the 3:13 mark, he hit one, and missed the
second. In perhaps the key play of the game, Randolph grabbed the board
and immediately fired it out to Redick, who nailed a 3 to put Duke up by 4 at
72-68.

You don't want to say it was academic from there, but Duke pulled away as
Tech missed shot after shot. Daniel Ewing hit a really gutty 3 to push the
lead up to five (after Elder made a pair of free throws). Elder missed a pair of
threes, .Will Bynum missed, Marvin Lewis couldn't connect, Clarence Moore
missed, and by then, it was a six point Duke lead, and with under a minute to
go, Duke, barring a meltdown, was going to win.

Duke has an easy and obvious strategy in tight games when they have a lead:
get the ball to Redick. It's almost impossible to do anything. You
can't foul a 97% free throw shooter. It's a checkmate, and that's about all
there is to it.

For Tech, Luke Schenscher had a brilliant game. We're one of the few places
to give the big guy a good word. He's no speedster, but he's smart and
hard-working, and we were really happy to see him have a solid game. He
ended up with 18 points and 8 boards on 7-10 shooting. It's not like Duke wasn't
playing defense - they held Tech to 37.7% and imagine that with Schenscher
taken out of the equation

Tech fored 20 turnovers from Duke, including 5 by Deng, 4 by Shelden
Williams, and 3 each from Duhon, Dockery, and Randolph.

Duke blocked 9 shots, and featured a swarming, high-pressure defense inside.

His turnovers aside, Deng had a brilliant game for Duke. He was
aggressive, mobile, and on the hunt constantly, and had a number of simply
spectacular plays. He ended up with 22 points and 10 boards in perhaps his
best performance of the year.

Shavlik Randolph also played a brilliant game, continuing his recently
elevated play. He was superb, and vital to Duke's efforts. He ended up
with 10 points, 6 boards, and 4 blocks.

After his early knee scare, Shelden Williams came back to score 15 points and
snare 10 boards in only 28 minutes, limited again by foul troubles.

Redick, who was pretty sick for the FSU game, only played 24 minutes after
getting 3 fouls early, but scored 11 points including that clutch 3.

Chris Duhon, not suprisingly, played 40 minutes. He shot only 3-9, but had 9
assists and

Ewing ended up playing 30 minutes, going 5-7 for 15 points.

Sean Dockery started, played 14 minutes, and ended with 2 points and 2
assists.

For Tech, two key players struggled, even as Schenscher stepped up:
Ismail Muhammad apparently had cramps and only played 15 minutes. He did grab 7
boards in that time, which is impressive.

B.J. Elder, Paul Hewitt's "best kept secret in basketball," was
kept secret a bit longer as he only scored 7 points in 27 minutes.

We noted in Tech's last game that Elder accounted for a huge majority of
Tech's points and that no one else much scored. Saturday, Schenscher got
his 18, and Jarret Jack got 19, Bynum 13, and then things fell off
sharply. Tech took 69 shots, making only 26.

We got the distinct impression, starting at, oh, about the point where Redick
and Elder mixed it up, that Tech is going through about the same thing Maryland
went through a while back, though without the paranoia and assorted delusions:
they're getting really sick of Duke.

And in fairness, they have a point. Duke's beaten them like a drum for years
now, since Stephon Marbury left, basically, and it would drive anyone
nuts. To Tech's credit, they have continued to build, their ability to
compete has improved, and before long, perhaps even on their trip to Durham
later this season, they'll catch Duke.

But it wasn't to be on Saturday.

What it was, to borrow from Andy Griffith, was an ACC basketball game, and a
really damned fine one, too. It had echoes of Price vs. Dawkins, Sally vs.
Alarie, and that wonderful era when a Duke-Tech game was enough to send an ACC
fan through the roof for a day or two before and a day or so after as
well.

It's also worth noting that in recent days, the southern tier of the
conference has really stepped up. FSU knocked off UNC and Wake and almost
got Duke; Clemson knocked off UNC Saturday, and Tech has become a major force in
the conference.

As Duke fans, it gives you a bit of a knot in the stomach knowing that the
easy era is almost over, but as ACC fans, you just relish the intensity and
beauty of days like Saturday and can't wait for the next one.

And you want to congratulate Tech on a beautiful effort, on having gutty and
passionate kids who really busted their butts to do something none of them had
ever done before. It's a great pleasure to welcome them back to the top
level of the ACC, and here's hoping this donnybrook is just the first of many to
come between these two wonderful programs.