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Duke Muscles Past Georgia Tech, 79-57

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If it turns out that this was Paul Hewitt's last visit to Cameron, we have to say that we are not going to miss him much.

Hewitt's teams are consistently among the most physical in the ACC, and at times they go too far. Playing Georgia Tech can be more like wrestling than basketball:  players get thrown down, elbows fly, jerseys are pulled and worse.

Nothing different on Sunday night.  Early on, Georgia Tech threatened to suck the Devils into a classic Hewitt slugfest.

The frustration was obvious for Duke, not least of all Nolan Smith, who suddenly couldn't manage to hit a layup, possibly due to being bumped, pushed, and hacked on the way up.

If you have read here for a long time, you know it takes a lot for us to discuss officiating, and we never do it in the case of a loss.

In this game though, the officiating was wildly uneven. This can lead to some problems, not least of all potentially injuries because the game is being poorly managed and players don't know what to expect.

In the beginning of the game, it seemed as if Duke was being called for touch fouls, while Georgia Tech's excessive physicality was largely unrestrained.

In the first 10 minutes, Duke was called for 9 fouls, and when Tyler Thornton was whistled for his first, Coach K erupted and was hit with a technical.

After Georgia Tech's Iman Shumpert hit four free throws to go up 18-13, his team erupted as well.

From that point on, Duke outscored Tech 66-39. They finished the half 37-28 and it just got worse in the second.

"It just happened so fast. ... They got a couple of breakaways and the crowd got into it," Mo Miller told ESPN. "Then we got a couple of silly fouls, and the next thing you know they were up 20. It's a good thing to keep fighting, but it's highly unlikely that you'll come back on a Duke team when you're down by 20."

He's right about that of course, but there's something else worth noting:

After K's technical, after  a pace of almost one foul per minute, Duke wasn't called for another until the 17:49 mark in the second half.

Now basically, that's fine by us, and Duke did play better after that point, but it just underscores again the wildly inconsistent officiating.

Perhaps the most glaring example of this was when Tyler Thornton dribbled from near the scoreboard across to press row.  It was like watching heavy action in a pinball machine: he was hit three separate times but only the third was called. This wasn't something lost in heavy traffic in the lane, but rather highly visible. It was just flabbergasting.

Bizarre officiating aside, after a slow start, Duke did pretty well.  They defended Shumpert and Glen Rice, Jr., Tech's main weapons, very well:  Shumpert was held to 4-16 for 13 points and Rice to 4-14 for 12.

Good thing for them that Mo Miller was 5-8 for 13, with several points on nice breakaways.

Nolan Smith had another great offensive game with 28 points, seven rebounds, and four assists.  Kyle Singler added 15 with nine boards, while Ryan Kelly tossed in 10.  Seth Curry had nine points and six assists, while Mason Plumlee just missed a double-double with nine points and nine boards.

Two guys should  come in for some special praise: Thornton, who did a tremendous job on defense, particularly on the much bigger Shumpert after Smith got in early foul trouble, and Kelly, who played with a lot of all-around savvy.

While we take issue with the way Georgia Tech sometimes plays, we do have a lot of admiration for their refusal to quit competing.  They kept trying until the final seconds.

And while as we said, it won't bother us not to play Hewitt again if that's how things work out, but the other day, he told Barry Jacobs that “[n]obody wants to hear that in 11 years, we’ve never had a guy in the paper for anything, not even jaywalking.”

That's certainly true to the best of our memory, and Hewitt deserves credit for those things. Generally speaking, his players graduate and stay out of trouble.

Unfortunately, that's usually not enough.  Georgia Tech is going to open a glittering new facility next season and this year they've had to just about give tickets away.  It's been a while since anyone has been excited about this program.  Next season is likely to mark a fresh start in a number of ways.

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