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Duke Charges Back To Beat Georgia Tech 66-53

Hats off to Tech for a tremendous effort.

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Georgia Tech v Duke
 DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA - JANUARY 26: RJ Barrett #5 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts after a shot against Abdoulaye Gueye #34 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 26, 2019 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Duke withstood a spirited Georgia Tech upset bid Saturday afternoon, breaking open a close game in the second half for a 66-53 win.

The win moves Duke to 6-1 in the ACC, 17-2 overall.

Tre Jones made a return to the lineup after an absence of almost two weeks. Jones played 35 minutes, scoring six points, with four rebounds and four assists.

Tech plays a funky zone, sometimes a 1-3-1, or a 2-2-1, even a 1-1-3. Their goal is to uglify the game. It may not be pretty but it can be effective. They already have ACC wins over Wake Forest, Syracuse and Notre Dame.

No one on the Duke end denied the obvious. Duke came out flat.

“We were super-dead, not with any energy,” Jones said.

Duke jumped to a 5-0 lead but couldn’t build on it. Mike Krzyzewski said Duke wasn’t ready to shoot when they got the ball, which allowed Tech’s defenders to close and turn open shots into contested shots.

And Duke only got two transition points in the first half.

“They were active and aggressive,” Mike Krzyzewski said. “Their defense and us worked together for us to only score 27 points. You could tell. We didn’t have fresh faces. We had transition in the first half but we didn’t score. You’ve got to either score the bucket or draw the foul or both. You can’t come up empty.”

Krzyzewski said that Duke’s first-half shooting woes began to impact the defense late in the first half. The visitors scored the last five points of the half, seven of the last eight, to jump to a 29-27 intermission lead.

Tech had a 24-18 edge on the boards in the first half, a 9-3 advantage in second-chance points, as Duke shot 29.6 from the field, 1-12 on threes.

Duke kept digging itself into a deeper hole when play resumed.

“I thought we were in a trance,” Krzyzewski said of the beginning of the second half.

Tech hit three layups in the first two minutes and suddenly it was 35-27.

Upset alert.

Duke called timeout and got it together.

“After the timeout, our guys really started playing defense,” Krzyzewski said. “And we did a couple different things against the zone that got us quick buckets. But our guys were just different. This is a game that winners win. When you can turn it around with 18 minutes to go, when you’re not playing well and then play great.”

Cam Reddish only made one of his eight three-point attempts but it might have been the biggest shot of the game, a transition bomb that made it 38-34.

“I knew it was a big three,” Reddish said. “I knew I was going to make it. I had full confidence.”

It should be noted that Reddish fought through his shooting woes to give Duke six rebounds, six assists and five steals.

“Coach stresses that, playing through it. As long as I’m getting good shots, he wants me to keep shooting. I played a lot of point guard in high school and I know how to set guys up.”

Reddish’s three ignited a prototypical Duke run. Zion Williamson tied it at 38 with a dunk, R.J. Barrett scored six straight and it was 44-38, a 13-0 run. The lead reached double-digits at 54-44, eventually reaching 18, a 33-8 run.

Losing coach Josh Pastner lamented the turnovers that allowed Duke to get out and run.

“It’s a long game, a game of runs. We got hurt on those turnovers. We’ve got to keep making sure we’re making the right decisions with the ball.”

Tech had 19 turnovers, 11 in the second half. Their starting guards Jose Alvarado and Michael Devoe each had five turnovers.

Barrett scored 14 of his game-high 24 points in the second half, Williamson 12 of his 22.

But there was an unsung hero. Duke made its run without any of its nominal big men. Marques Bolden suffered a toenail problem--not believed to be serious--and sat down.. Duke had other big-man options but Krzyzewski went with Alex O’Connell as the fifth guy. The same Alex O’Connell who was scoreless against Pittsburgh earlier in the week and had three nondescript minutes in the first half against the Yellow Jackets.

Why O’Connell?

“He hasn’t played well,” Krzyzewski acknowledged. “He hasn’t played with the verve he has. The last two days in practice, you could tell he was different. When he wasn’t playing well, I thought he was into himself, trying to figure it out, instead of just playing the game. He was terrific. He was a big part of our winning.”

O’Connell’s take?

“He didn’t really tell me anything. He just put me in. Coach trusts me to play hard and that’s what I’m going to do every time I’m in. If I can bring energy to my guys, I’ll do that anytime.”

O’Connell had four points, three rebounds and a steal, all in the second half.

Williamson added that this lineup spread the floor and opened up the interior for he and Barrett to operate.

It helped that Williamson was able to guard any of Tech’s big guys.

Jones said he could have played earlier this week but would not have been at full strength. He says today’s slow start should be a learning experience.

“We were extremely dead the first 24 or so minutes. After that, we began to pick it up. Alex came in and gave us a huge spark. That was the group that got it going, Zion is strong enough to guard those 5s and when we were able to rebound, we were able to get out and run. We’ve got to learn from this. We have to come out ready to play.”


Krzyzewski said that based on his experience, home teams tend to come out slower in noon games. You may have noticed that Duke has another noon tip-off next Saturday, St. John’s.

Duke out-rebounded Tech 20-10 in the second half. Barrett led everyone with 11. Duke had seven blocks--three by Williamson--and 13 steals. Foul shooting was superb, 16-for-19.

But that 3-point shooting. Ouch. Duke was 2-for-21. Jack White missed a pair, bringing him to 1-for-20 over his last six games.

But at least he hit the rim. Jordan Goldwire air-balled both of his 3s. He’s 0-for-15 on the season.

Notre Dame next on the agenda, Monday night in South Bend.


Player Of The Game vs. Georgia Tech

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    RJ Barrett
    (240 votes)
  • 2%
    Cam Reddish
    (12 votes)
  • 29%
    Zion Williamson
    (175 votes)
  • 1%
    Marques Bolden
    (7 votes)
  • 7%
    Tre Jones
    (42 votes)
  • 0%
    Javin DeLaurier
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    Jack White
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    Antonio Vrankovic
    (9 votes)
  • 1%
    Jordan Goldwire
    (9 votes)
  • 16%
    Alex O’ Connell
    (98 votes)
598 votes total Vote Now

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