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Duke Guts It Out Over Tech, 60-56

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In a hard-fought game, Duke survived a great effort by Georgia Tech, winning
60-56. A win is a win is a win, but no one is going to call this one a
work of art.

No matter. Duke won a critical road game: with Miami left at home and UNC in
Chapel Hill, this was a big one. And it was bigger for Tech: it was
perhaps their best chance to claim an NCAA bid. Now they may have to get
it through the ACC Tournament.

Duke won despite shooting 37%, 18 turnovers, shooting less than 60% from the
free throw line, and Shelden Williams starting the second half on the bench
after going 1-7 in the first half.

On the other hand, with or without B.J. Elder, Tech is struggling on
offense. They shot over 57% in the first half, but in the second, they
started 0-10, and finished the half at 29%. They also had 19 turnovers for
the game.

Elder shot a horrific 1-8 in 22 minutes. Jarrett Jack was 9-17.
Will Bynum was 1-6. Luke Schenscher was 7-14. Tech didn't get a basket in
the second half until the 13:50 mark. Partly it was the gang that couldn't
shoot straight, but a lot of it was that both teams played rugged defense.

Duke also finished the second half without Sean Dockery, who apparently
sprained his right knee, but we hear he is expected to play this weekend against
St. John's.

To top everything else off, Daniel Ewing had four fouls five minutes into the
second half (he got another technical in this game, in the first half). Nelson
also picked up his fourth at the 12:05 mark.

So to sum that up: Duke finished the last twelve minutes with Dockery out,
and the other two natural guards with 8 fouls between them.

DeMarcus Nelson got a lot of time and he capitalized. His rebounding
will impress anyone, but what really impressed us was his hustle. That's a
key to rebounding, of course, but there was one play where he scrapped on the
floor to get a loose ball and got the pass out of a scrum. That's the kind
of thing any coach would love.

A guy that most opposing coaches are bound to dislike at this point is
Is'mail Muhammad, who has built up a track record of controversial plays.
This game was no exception.

At the 10:15 mark in the second half, Muhammad was guarding Redick and they
ended up in a pile on the floor, with Muhammad at first sitting on Redick.
Redick got out from under Muhammad and they ended up wrestling and a double foul
was called, which was Muhammad's third.

Immediately after that, he was whistled for again defending too physically
and took a seat.

Ewing hit a three after that to give Duke a six point lead, which was
coincidentally all the points Tech had scored in the second half to that point,
though Schenscher came down and hit a bucket after that to cut it back to four
at 45-41.

In spite of the offensive malaprops, Tech was within two with seven minutes
to go. Then J.J. Redick made a pass which he won't fully get recognized

He hit Williams for a dunk with a tremendous bounce pass through the
lane. It was a simple play, but one that not everyone can make anymore.

Next time out, Melchionni tossed up his second air ball, and Tech came down
and cut it back to two points.

Tech could have tied, but Williams blocked Schenscher from behind when he was
all alone on a break. They stole the ball and did score the next time
down, and Duke called a time out. Smart play by Nelson, who refused to foul out.

Williams scored out of the timeout, and Elder walked on Tech's next

They did tie it up after a block which came after the under-four timeout, but
then it was time for Lee Melchionni, who hit a huge three to put Duke up 52-49.

At the 2:45 mark, Schenscher again didn't take it up strong and missed, and
Duke rebounded and spread the court. Ewing missed a layup and Williams
dunked the follow to give Duke a five point lead.

Jarrett Jack came down and hit a layup and was fouled by Melchionni. He
hit the free throw to make it a two point game again.

Then Melchionni hit another key three, and Schenscher followed his own miss
to cut it back to three with 1:13 left.

On the next possession, he missed a big three with the clock running out, but
Ewing recovered, and Tech was forced to foul with 31.9 left. He missed
both, but Williams grabbed the board.

B.J. Elder fouled out after trying to put Nelson on the line,which was smart,
because he hasn't been a good foul shooter, and if Dockery had been healthy, his
percentage would like have kept Nelson off the floor.

True to form thus far, Nelson missed the first, but got the second for a four
point lead.

This was the only free throw, to that point, that Duke had hit in the second

Jarrett missed his first shot, and missed his second, but Schenscher got the
rebound and hit the follow.

Tech was then whistled for holding Redick on the inbounds play, to Paul
Hewitt's disgust.

Redick hit both, and that was the ballgame.

When you really break the second half down, it's almost amazing that Duke
won, given what foul trouble did to the perimeter defense, and that they only
shot 38.5%.

They won because they played tremendous defense, and because they made the
right plays at the right time: Melchionni's big threes, Williams' block on
Schenscher and his big follow and his rebounding, Nelson's foul shot, and Redick
hitting the foul shots to clinch the win.

It wasn't a thing of beauty, to be sure, but it was a tough win on the road
against a team which couldn't afford to lose. It clinches at least a tie
for third place for Duke in the ACC, and the Devils may be closing on a second
seed for the NCAA Tournament, though given the NCAA's proclivity for dramatic
matchups, they'll almost certainly put Duke in the same bracket with Illinois to
get the big rematch.

Big whoop. They're not unbeatable, and that's a ways away.

Next up in the conference race is Miami (St. John's is on Saturday, of course), and if Duke can secure that win, they'll be fired up going
into Chapel Hill.

Also of note: this is the first time in a while that Duke had a full roster
at the beginning of a game, as Dave McClure saw his first minutes since his knee
surgery. So given how this season has gone, it was perhaps inevitable that
an injury occurred.

Fortunately, as we said, it appears to be a minor one, and will not sideline
Dockery for long.