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Squandered Opportunities Underscore A Duke Loss To Georgia Tech

Stellar performances by Mark Williams and Wendell Moore were overshadowed by horrid shooting

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Georgia Tech
Duke Blue Devils forward Wendell Moore Jr. (0) drives on Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets guard Jordan Usher (4) in the second half at McCamish Pavilion.
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing was as it seemed in Duke’s loss to Georgia Tech.

It seemed like Duke dominated the first half, buoyed by Wendell Moore getting to the rim at will en route to 16 points. It seemed like Mark Williams was winning the battle in the paint, scoring six easy points and forcing Georgia Tech star Moses Wright into consistently challenged attempts at the rim. It seemed like Duke’s offense was operating efficiently, driven by five first-half assists from senior point guard Jordan Goldwire.

And yet, Duke’s lead at the half was a mere three points following a three from Wright as the horn sounded.

Then, it seemed like Joey Baker had finally earned his moment in the sun, scoring six points down the stretch to force overtime. It seemed Duke had found a way to overcome the absence of star Matthew Hurt by using Goldwire and Williams in the pick and roll. It seemed like the ball might finally bounce Duke’s way after a chaotic sequence in overtime gave DJ Steward a wide-open three to tie the game in the closing seconds.

Yet in the end, Steward’s shot was off, and the Blue Devils came up just short, like they have in most of their close contests this season.

The inability to build a lead matching their first-half performance came back to haunt Duke in an 81-77 overtime to the Yellowjackets. Wright finished with 29 points, and the Yellowjackets made just enough free throws down the stretch in overtime to secure the victory.

Duke maintained a narrow lead until 10:12 to go in the second half, with a rash of turnovers keeping Georgia Tech within shouting distance. From there, the wheels seemingly came off. Freshman point guard Jeremy Roach struggled on both ends, turning it over immediately after the Yellowjackets took the lead, and soon after getting beat on the baseline leading to an easy dunk for Wright. With the Georgia Tech lead at four, Matthew Hurt seemingly earned himself an opportunity for an and-one, but instead was called for an offensive foul after pushing off with his off arm. That fourth fouled proved costly.

With Hurt taken out with just over eight minutes to go, Duke held serve for two minutes. Hurt was inserted back into the game on the offensive end, and immediately fouled out on what was, at best, a questionable call. The Blue Devils were forced to scramble without their best player with more than six minutes of game to go.

The Georgia Tech lead ballooned to eight with 4:47 to go. But the Yellowjackets would not score the rest of regulation, as Duke shifted to a zone defense and an unusual lineup with Baker and Jaemyn Brakefield taking the place of the struggling Steward and Roach paid dividends. Baker made a transition three with 2:21 to go to cut the lead in half, and was fouled on another three-point attempt with 1:43 to go. Duke had tied the game.

No one scored the rest of the way, though, with Duke unable to take advantage of a golden opportunity at the end of regulation. After a horrific possession that ended with an airballed three from Jose Alvarado, Duke had six seconds to get off the final shot. It yielded an open look for Brakefield from the corner, which was well off.

Overtime started well with the pick-and-roll action yielding an easy dunk for Williams. But Duke gave up the next six points, helped by Williams’ struggles at the free throw line. From there the Blue Devils struggled to find offense with Hurt out, and could not exploit a near implosion from the Yellowjackets in the game’s final minutes.

It was impressive that the young Blue Devils fought back to force overtime without their star. But effort and heart don’t show up on the team’s tournament resume. And after subsequent overtime losses, that resume is looking less and less like a tournament team’s, regardless of how Duke seems on the court.


Player Of The Game vs. Georgia Tech

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    Wendell Moore
    (146 votes)
  • 0%
    Matthew Hurt
    (1 vote)
  • 39%
    Mark Williams
    (142 votes)
  • 0%
    DJ Steward
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Jeremy Roach
    (3 votes)
  • 1%
    Henry Coleman
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    Jaemyn Brakefield
    (3 votes)
  • 8%
    Joey Baker
    (31 votes)
  • 7%
    Patrick Tapé
    (26 votes)
  • 1%
    Jeremy Goldwire
    (6 votes)
363 votes total Vote Now