This game turned on two plays late in the second half:Â Kyle Singler's travel and Nolan Smith's charge.
Had Singler hit the shot he was hoping to take, Duke would have gone up by nine and life would have gotten much more difficult for Tech.
That was compounded by Smith's turnover with 5:39 left.Â Duke surrendered the ball leading 55-50. After that, in order:Â Smith missed a layup and a three pointer and Miles Plumlee missed a dunk follow-up.Â Ryan Kelly fouled Terrell Bell, who converted both free throws to give Tech a 57-55 lead.Â And that just about did it. Duke kept fighting, but the momentum had totally turned.Â Too bad, because they could have won this one.
Part of the problem of course was emotions.Â They worked beautifully for Tech, but backfired completely on Seth Curry, who played 15 minutes, picked up two quick fouls, and eventually fouled out.Â He was so keyed up to play his parent's alma mater -- and perhaps to show Seth Greenberg that he made a mistake in not pursuing him -- that his game fell apart.
Hopefully it's a temporary setback, and an understandable one.Â No less unfortunate for that.
Duke, and primarily Nolan Smith, did a tremendous job on Malcolm Delaney, who was a non-factor for most of the game (other than a late three which was a real blow to the Devils) and overcame Tech's emotional advantage for most of the second half.
In fact, up until Singler's travel, we thought that not only had Duke overcome that, but that they had tired Tech out to the point where the game was essentially over:Â Delaney seemed totally exhausted, Tech couldn't buy a free throw, and they looked ready to fade.
Obviously that didn't happen.Â Tech found their second (or third) wind and may have nailed down a bid.Â Â We admire guys who play with heart and they showed a ton.Â It was a gutty, gutty last five minutes which seemed completely unlikely just before it started.Â Obviously you'd rather not lose, but when a team plays like that it's impossible to resent them because the effort and passion must be respected.Â We only wish Duke had matched it.
As for Curry, tough break for a guy who has steadily improved.Â You hope that he learns from it and gets better.Â Odds are that no one is more disappointed than he is.
Oh well, next play.Â On to Clemson this week.Â The Tigers are in a similar situation: a win over Duke would really improve their credibility.
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