Duke explodes after intermission to bury Yellow Jackets
A sluggish first half that followed a loss three days earlier left Cameron Indoor Stadium’s crowd restless Tuesday night.
Duke’s players and coaches felt it and did something to change the mood.
A solid second half filled with gritty play and hot shooting allowed the No. 16 Blue Devils to pull away and beat Georgia Tech 79-55 in ACC basketball.
Duke (12-3, 1-1 in ACC) responded to Saturday’s 79-77 loss at Notre Dame with 36 percent shooting over the first 20 minutes. The Blue Devils took a 34-33 lead to intermission but knew they needed something more.
“Just a mental adjustment,” Duke redshirt sophomore captain Rodney Hood said. “We were dead in the first half. We didn’t play like we just came off a loss. The second half we just came out and played hungry, played together.”
Once again, Hood more than delivered what Duke needed on offense. He scored 27 points for the second consecutive game, logging 15 points in the second half. The bulk of those points came on the four 3-pointers he made in the final 7:13.
That spurt allowed Duke to expand a 60-50 lead into a lead that made the final five minutes stress free.
“Our execution down the stretch was outstanding,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
That 60-50 score is familiar to the Blue Devils. They led by that score midway through the second half at Notre Dame only to see the Irish outplay them over the final 10 minutes.
Georgia Tech (9-6, 0-2) found the going far tougher on Tuesday.
“We recognized what happened,” Duke point guard Quinn Cook said. “We knew what we had to do. We kept playing great defense. We wanted to get (the lead) to 20 points. I think we did a good job of that.”
Over the first 20 minutes, Georgia Tech found of the same easy lanes to the basket that Notre Dame used to exploit Duke. A 44 percent shooting team this season, the Yellow Jackets hit 53.6 percent of their first half shots as the majority of their attempts came in the lane.
“We really had problems defensively,” Krzyzewski said. “We got beat. We gave up a lot of drives. Still, we were up by 1. But I think if the game kept going that way, we were not going to win this game.”
Amile Jefferson’s work on Yellow Jackets center Daniel Miller played a big role. The wiry, 6-8 Jefferson, back in the starting lineup for the first time in six weeks, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked a shot.
Miller, a 6-11½ redshirt senior center, had the edge in height, bulk and experience. But Miller managed only three baskets after halftime to finish with 14 points.
“He just used his athleticism,” Krzyzewski said.
Jefferson displayed a grittiness the Blue Devils needed to bounce back from that tough road loss in their league opener.
“I’m a fighter so games like this I’ve got to be ready,” Jefferson said. “It’s about heart. Sometimes in games like this where you are playing a guy that is bigger than you…it comes down to just heart. That’s what I played with.”
Duke passed the ball better in its half-court offense in the second half and was able to knock down more shots than it had over the first 20 minutes. The Blue Devils made 57.7 percent of their second-half shots to finish at 47.1 percent for the game.
It took less than a minute for Duke to unleash a 7-0 run early in the second half to push its lead to 43-35.
A Rasheed Sulaimon 3-pointer at 16:38 gave Duke its first double-digit lead at 48-38.
The lead was still 10 points — that ominous 60-50 score — when Hood got hot.
Duke associate head coach Steve Wojciechowski’s scouting gave him a hint that a play freeing Hood up for 3-pointers on the wing might work.
Duke ran it and the 6-8 forward sank back-to-back 3-pointers putting Duke up 66-50 with 6:29 left.
The Yellow Jackets made only three field goals the rest of the game. When the clock ticked below the four-minute mark, Hood hit two more 3-pointers and Duke’s lead zoomed over the 20-point plateau.
“I took open shots,” Hood said. “My teammates did a great job of getting into the lane. (The Yellow Jackets) converged, especially when I was at the four spot, and I just knocked down shots.”
|No. 16 DUKE 79, GEORGIA TECH 57|
Percentages: FG .491, FT .000.
3-Point Goals: 5-16, .313 (Georges-Hunt 2-4, Bolden 1-1, Morris 1-1, Stephens 1-4, Golden 0-2, Poole, Jr. 0-2, Poole 0-2).
Team Rebounds: 3.
Blocked Shots: 3 (Miller, Stephens, Bolden).
Turnovers: 11 (Poole 4, Georges-Hunt 2, Golden, Stephens, Morris, Miller, Poole, Jr.).
Steals: 3 (Miller 3).
Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .471, FT .880.
3-Point Goals: 9-20, .450 (Hood 5-7, Sulaimon 2-2, Cook 1-4, Dawkins 1-5, Parker 0-2).
Team Rebounds: 1.
Blocked Shots: 3 (Dawkins, Jefferson, Plumlee).
Turnovers: 7 (Parker 2, Cook, Sulaimon, Hairston, Hood).
Steals: 2 (Hairston, Dawkins).
Technical Fouls: None.
Officials_Tim Nestor, Brian O'Connell, Mike Stuart.