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Duke Takes Control Late, Beats Georgia Tech

It wasn’t easy but Duke broke its three-game losing streak

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Louisville
 Jan 23, 2021; Louisville, KY, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Jordan Goldwire (14) controls the ball against the Louisville Cardinals during a NCAA basketball game at the KFC Yum! Center.
Courier Journal-USA TODAY Sports

“We all wanted this win, we needed this win. It’s a big confidence booster . . . hopefully the start of something big.”

That was Duke freshman Jalen Johnson summing up Duke’s 75-68 win over Georgia Tech.

It wasn’t easy and it certainly wasn’t inevitable. A young Duke team gave up an 11-point lead in the second half and had to dig deep against a veteran Georgia Tech team.

When Duke dug deep, it found what it needed.

“For us to come out and beat a very good Georgia Tech team,” Jordan Goldwire said, “an older team, shows that we’re trying to improve every day. . . . we’ve just got to keep getting better and learning from our mistakes.”

Duke got big plays from Matt Hurt, Jalen Johnson, D.J. Steward and Wendell Moore, along with a much-needed first-half boost from Mark Williams. But it was Goldwire who made one huge play after another with the game on the line, completing one of the best games any Duke player has had this season.

Krzyzewski said Duke had “two good days of practice” and a good pre-game meeting last night, concentrating on correcting some of the problems that led to that unusual three-game losing streak.

Duke certainly corrected several. Duke came out ready to play, taking a 2-0 lead that they extended to 10-4. But Tech is a veteran team, one that starts only juniors and seniors. And one of those seniors is point guard Jose Alvarado, a tough, gritty veteran who checks all the boxes.

Tech caught up and Alvarado gave them the lead at 14-12.

Tech had their biggest lead at 20-16.

It didn’t help Duke that Jalen Johnson picked up two quick fouls and gave Duke only nine first-half minutes. In fact Johnson (2) and Matt Hurt (4) combined for only 6 first-half points. But Williams scored inside three times and Steward knocked down a couple of treys in the final 90 seconds and Duke held Tech scoreless for the final 4:22 of the half.

Krzyzewski said Williams “had not practiced well until the last couple of days” and gave credit to Williams for putting in extra work with assistant coach Nate James.

Duke led 33-25 at the intermission.

Johnson and Hurt showed up for the second half and Duke extended the lead to 11 points on two separate occasions, the second when a Steward 3-pointer made it 45-34.

Maybe a full-house of crazies would have helped rattle Tech. But probably not. Alvarado doesn’t rattle. He assisted Jordan Usher for a 3 and it was 46-43. Usher tied it at 52-52.

Krzyzewski cited Jordan Goldwire and Wendell Moore for their leadership down the stretch.

“Based on losing three in a row a team can start thinking negative and our team didn’t,” Krzyzewski said. “Losing three games, the last one being a very winnable game for us, it can go the other way really easy.”

It didn’t. Johnson made some huge plays, putting that shaky first half behind him.

“It was a fresh 20 minutes,” he said, “just putting that first 20 minutes behind me, not dwelling on it or anything. My team still played well so matching their energy was my main focus.”

Johnson scored 16 points in the second half. Krzyzewski cited one sequence. Alvarado stole the ball from Johnson and finished at the other end to tie the game at 56-56, with six minutes left. Two minutes later Alvarado put Tech up 61-60 with two foul shots.

Johnson responded with two old-fashioned three-point plays.

“For him to be advancing like he is is really encouraging and to learn about the physicality of the game and to play through contact. He made two plays in the last few minutes through contact and he made one of them after letting Alvarado take the ball from him. That’s a big sign.”

But Goldwire was the guy who made the biggest play of the game.

Trailing 69-68 with a minute left Tech called a play for Alvarado to make something happen. But Goldwire picked his pocket.

“It was just a read, just playing basketball . . . something I do all the time,” Goldwire said.

He followed that up by knocking down two foul shots. 71-68. After Usher missed a three, Hurt went to the line, made the first but missed the second. Goldwire rebounded that miss and Duke closed it out from the line.

“I thought we had good poise at the end,” Krzyzewski said, adding that he thought Goldwire had his best game at Duke.

So, the Blue Devils are back on the good side of .500, 4-3 in the ACC, 6-5 overall. Time will tell if this win marks a turning point in this season but there certainly are a lot of positives to build on.


Duke shot 22 foul shots, Tech shot five. And Duke made 18 of those 22.

“We just had to be more aggressive, playing physical and that led to free throws for us,” Johnson said.

Duke also dominated the glass, a 43-28 rebounding advantage. But Tech hit three more 3-pointers than Duke and turned it over 3 fewer times than Duke (11 to 14). Alavardo’s 26 points on 10-15 shooting (3-5 on 3s), 5 assists and 3 steals had a lot to do with that.

Center Moses Wright also had a pretty impressive stat sheet with 12 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks.

Steward (19), Johnson (18), Hurt (17) and Goldwire (11) scored in double figures for the Devils. Hurt led Duke with 8 rebounds, while Williams gave Duke 6 points and 6 rebounds in 13 huge minutes off the bench.

Goldwire led everyone with 7 assists and added 5 rebounds and 2 steals.


Player Of The Game vs. Georgia Tech

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Jalen Johnson
    (58 votes)
  • 0%
    Wendell Moore
    (1 vote)
  • 2%
    Matthew Hurt
    (11 votes)
  • 21%
    DJ Steward
    (86 votes)
  • 0%
    Jeremy Roach
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Henry Coleman
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Jaemyn Brakefield
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    Joey Baker
    (4 votes)
  • 8%
    Mark Williams
    (34 votes)
  • 49%
    Jordan Goldwire
    (194 votes)
393 votes total Vote Now