clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Covid-Stricken Duke Toughs One Out vs. Georgia Tech

Chalk one up for heart and effort

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Georgia Tech v Duke
 DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA - JANUARY 04: Trevor Keels #1 of the Duke Blue Devils drives against Michael Devoe #0 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during the second half of their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 04, 2022 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 69-57.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

It wasn’t an aesthetic masterpiece. I don’t think anyone expected that.

But grit counts for something too. After a 13-day absence which included virtually no practice time, Duke returned to the court Tuesday night with a 69-57 win over Georgia Tech.

Of course, Tech had a 10-day pause before resuming play two days ago against Louisville.

The win ran second-ranked Duke’s ACC record to 2-0, 12-1 overall. Tech dropped to 0-3 in the conference, 6-7 overall.

The Blue Devils clearly were rusty and had lost some conditioning during the layoff. But they dominated inside and held the visitors to 33 percent shooting from the field and that was enough.

It was a physical game, a chippy game, with perhaps more than the usual amount of trash talking. Mike Krzyzewski used the word “exhausting” to describe the protracted game that saw 41 fouls, 27 on Tech.

It took Duke much of the first half to get some separation. Tech only led at 9-7 and 9-8. It was tied at 11-11 and still close at 22-21, with 5:32 left in the half. But Paolo Banchero made five of six foul shots and A.J. Griffin hit a 3 as Duke’s 8-0 run put them up 30-21. After two foul shots by Michael Sturdivant, Duke scored the final five points of the half and went into the locker room, up 35-23.

Banchero had 12 points and 7 rebounds at the half, while Mark Williams had 6 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks. Duke outrebounded Tech 28-18 in the first half.

It should be noted that the Yellow Jackets were absent their best big man, Rodney Howard, who’s been bothered by a bad ankle.

“You want to have Rodney,” Tech coach Josh Pastner acknowledged. “You want to have your full complement of guys. That’s just the way it is. Our guys battled and competed but the difference in the game was offensive rebounding. They do a good job on the glass. They’re big and very, very good.”

Pastner mentioned that he thought Duke was good enough to win it all. Mentioned it numerous times, actually.

The Blue Devils shot only 31 percent from the field in the first half, which isn’t that good unless the other team shoots 25 percent, which Tech did. And Duke was 14 for 19 from the line at halftime, Tech 4 for 4.

Duke seemed to have Tech on the ropes coming into the second half. But Duke threw out a lifeline for Tech in the opening moments by missing 9 of its first eleven foul shots.

The legs weren’t there.

Krzyzewski told his team they were going to have to win it on the defensive end of the floor.

“That’s what saved it for us. The lack of practice, the lack of conditioning really had an impact on our offensive execution, shots, free throws. But it did not defensively.”

“Putting in that effort defensively,” Banchero summed up.

Tech clawed back into the game. Michael Devoe came into the contest as the ACC’s leading scorer. Duke held him scoreless for the game’s first 14 minutes but he exploded after intermission. But he didn’t get a lot of help and Duke made him work for everything he got. Devoe ended with 21 points but he was 8 for 19 from the field, 3 for 10 on 3s and turned it over twice.

Still, that was 18 points in the second half and Tech used them well. They cut Duke’s lead to six at 40-34, fell behind by a dozen, then 15. But a Devoe 3-pointer made it 58-52, with 3:18 left.

But Duke’s freshmen made enough shots to quell the rally. In fact freshmen A.J. Griffin (5), Trevor Keels (5) and Banchero (2) scored all of Duke’s points in a four-minute span that saw Duke get the lead back to double figures. At 58-52 Griffin had a monster “I’m back” dunk off a great Wendell Moore feed and following a turnover, Keels hit a huge 3 to make it 63-52 and Duke closed it out.

Banchero ended with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks, while Williams had 10 points, 14 rebounds and 3 blocks.

And then there was super-sub Griffin who scored 9 of his dozen points in the second half. He added six rebounds and two assists.

“We didn’t want the same thing that happened at Ohio State to happen tonight,” he said, “where you get nonchalant. We just kept pressing forward.”

Duke ended with a 48-35 edge on the glass, a 17-8 advantage on second-chance points and a a 17-point advantage from the foul line, despite shooting a mediocre 65 percent from the line.

The overwhelming sentiment from staff and players was that they were glad to get over a period Banchero called “not fun.”

Krzyzewski said he had never seen anything like this and the man has been doing this for a long time.

“This has been a really tough time for us. We’ve got to keep working at it. Most of our team has had it, most of our staff has had it. We’ve just got to start building again. We’re not close to being the team we were.”


We just missed a touching moment. Tech had arranged to have their great former coach Bobby Cremins on the sideline but Cremins came up with a hernia and had to bail out.


Survivor Of The Game vs. Georgia Tech

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Wendell Moore
    (8 votes)
  • 55%
    Paolo Banchero
    (235 votes)
  • 15%
    Mark Williams
    (66 votes)
  • 1%
    Jeremy Roach
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    Trevor Keels
    (4 votes)
  • 21%
    AJ Griffin
    (89 votes)
  • 0%
    Joey Baker
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    Theo John
    (5 votes)
  • 1%
    Jaylen Blakes
    (5 votes)
420 votes total Vote Now