Duke got to .500 in the ACC with a victory over first-place Georgia Tech Wednesday night.
No, I did not expect to be writing those words a few weeks ago.
What I did expect to be writing was something along the lines of Duke mauled Georgia Tech 110-57, placing seven players in double figures and dominating every facet of play.
Which is what happened.
Sideplots galore. Mike Krzyzewski says he feels fine except that he’s in pain all the time. Tests tomorrow, surgery Friday, R & R afterwards. He says he expects to be back this season, adding that with this being his fifth surgery in recent months, he’s learned to listen to the doctors.
And Grayson Allen is back, got the start, played within himself, leading everyone with seven assists, along with 15 points.
Harry Giles also got his first college start and his first double-double, 10 points and 12 rebounds in 17 minutes.
Amile Jefferson had 14 points and seven rebounds, even making six of eight from the line.
What was different from Saturday afternoon’s debacle in Blacksburg? “We were all in,” Jefferson says. “We listened to our game plans, our coaches and made the adjustments we needed to make. I’m proud of my group. We played beautiful basketball. That was the team we were starting to become before the injuries and other stuff. We did a great job of taking care of the ball, making the extra pass, getting assists. We have smart guys. The biggest point of emphasis was to be Duke. We got prepared, got our whole team back.”
Matt Jones added “guys had to look ourselves in the mirror, including myself. We had to get outside ourselves. We had to change. We knew if we didn’t create for other guys, we’d lose again.”
Tech actually led 4-0, a couple of easy here-we-go-again lay-ups. But Duke answered with a 9-0 run and Tech never got back in it.
Duke showed its offensive versatility. The Blue Devils knocked down six 3-pointers before the second media timeout, 11-18 at the half, a 61-30 Duke lead.
The second half saw Duke run a dunk clinic, a highlight-reel lob from Tatum to Giles an eye-opener for what it promises down the road. Duke scored 28 second-half points in the paint.
The pre-injury narrative on Duke suggested that Duke had too many scoring options for any team to stop them all. Luke Kennard, Allen and Frank Jackson combined for 41 first-half points. The trio scored only five after intermission, with Kennard and Allen barely breaking sweats.
But freshmen Jayson Tatum, Giles and Marques Bolden combined for 27 second-half points after scoring only six before intermission.
Pick your poison.
Tatum had 15 of his game-high 19 points in the second half, adding six rebounds, four assists, two blocks and four steals.
“Coach doesn’t want me to just be a scorer,” Tatum says. “Be an all-around player, help the team any way I can. I may not always hit the shots but I can always play defense, I can always rebound.”
It looks like Jones is part of that attack. Coming off the bench, Jones hit four three-pointers on the way to 14 points, his best scoring effort since November 19, 15 points against Penn State.
Does Duke have its mojo back? Jefferson noted that as good as Duke played, they have to go back and do it again and again. But the trend lines look a lot better than just a few days ago.
Grayson Allen said he did not know if regaining a share of the captaincy was on the table for this season. TBD.
Allen had a rare four-point play in the first half, hitting a bomb, drawing the foul and converting from the line.
Luke Kennard scored 16 first-half points, hitting all six of his field-goal attempts—four from beyond the arc. He missed his only second-half shot, playing only seven minutes. In fact, no Blue Devil played more than Tatum’s 28 minutes, with eight players notching at least 15 minutes, a welcome respite from earlier games.
Kennard, Jones and Jackson all hit four 3-pointers.
Marques Bolden showed what all the fuss was about in a solid second half, ending with four points, four rebounds and an emphatic block.
Duke ended hitting 16-31 from beyond the arc, 16-19 from the line, a 49-31 rebounding dominance and 24 assists against 10 turnovers. By contrast, Duke had eight assists at Blacksburg.
No Tech played scored more than 11 points.
Boston College is next, Saturday afternoon, bringing in some New England weather for Jeff Capel’s 2017 debut.
- Allen returns from suspension, sparks emphatic Duke men's basketball rout of Georgia Tech with crisp passing
- No. 8 Duke Routs Georgia Tech 110-57
- Allen returns to lineup, Duke hammers Georgia Tech 110-57
- On strange night in Cameron, Duke heads into uncertain future – DeCock
- Allen’s suspension appropriate, but behavior remains worrisome – DeCock