No. 3 Duke responded to its first loss of the season in a challenging 73-57 win against a Georgia Tech squad that fought hard on both sides of the ball. The Blue Devils were trailing at the half but a barrage of 3-pointers from Seth Curry brought it home.
Here’s your postgame recap:
- Increasing the bench’s productivity: The starting lineup for Duke was different than in the loss at N.C. State with Tyler Thornton starting in place of Sulaimon coming off the bench. Sulaimon finally broke his scoring slump with 15 points and five rebounds, boosting the Blue Devils’ bench production.
- Strong Performances from Curry, Plumlee, and the freshmen: Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee reminded everyone why they are the top two players on Duke’s roster, both leading the team in scoring and contributing on both sides of the ball accounting for some of the lost production due to Ryan Kelly’s injury. Amile Jefferson and Rasheed Sulaimon were more productive than in recent games and, most importantly, made the shots that counted the most providing the spark off the bench Duke needed to earn the win.
- Responding well to Adversity: Beyond the difficulty of coming off the team’s first loss, Duke had to respond to an early 15-8 deficit to the Yellow Jackets in the first half. The Blue Devils proved their resiliency without Kelly in the lineup and have started to create a rhythm with the new lineup combinations on the court.
Three key plays of the game:
- 0:05, first half. Amile Jefferson closed a first half in which Duke battled to keep the game close on a high note with a layup in the closing seconds. His basket sent Duke into halftime with the crowd reinvigorated. The Blue Devils started the second half on a 19-3 run to take a significant lead over Georgia Tech.
- 19:30, second half. Quinn Cook drains a three pointer in transition jump starting Duke’s 19-3 run to begin the half. The play on the court increased in intensity for the Blue Devils as Duke took the lead, 30-28.
- 6:08, second half. The second half brought out improved intensity for Duke on the defensive end that led to easy buckets. Mason Plumlee blocked an inside shot which was rebounded by Georgia Tech and kicked out for a three point attempt that missed the basket completely. Plumlee rebounded the shot and dished the ball ahead to Rasheed Sulaimon who drove to the basket for an and-1 opportunity that he converted.
Three key stats:
- Seth Curry and Rasheed Sulaimon go 9-11 from beyond the arc: Curry and Sulaimon were efficient shooters tonight in 3-point attempts, missing only one each. The key to Duke’s second half run centered on utilizing the opportunities created due to strong defensive play and the Curry-Sulaimon pair took full advantage scoring over half of Duke’s points overall.
- Georgia Tech turns the ball over 21 times: The Duke defense was significantly improved from the N.C. State loss, allowing Georgia Tech to shoot only 37.9 % from the floor and causing 21 turnovers, which lead to easy baskets for the Blue Devils.
- Duke outrebounded by one: Even though Duke controlled the defensive end of the court, the Blue Devils were still outrebounded by one with the Yellow Jackets grabbing 39 rebounds and Duke 38. It is important to realize that Duke was able to win by a large margin without controlling the boards. The key will be whether the Blue Devils can improve rebounding efforts against stronger competition to control the paint and give the team the best opportunity to win.
And the Duke game ball goes to …Mason Plumlee. Seth Curry had a fantastic game tonight shooting extremely well from behind the arc, but double-double machine Mason Plumlee, who has been in a slump offensively, was able to contribute on both sides of the ball. He scored 16 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, and added three steals, three blocks, and two assists to his performance. Sure, he didn’t hit all those jump hooks, but he was key in attracting attention down low. The quality of his play on offense and defense throughout the game was exceptional. Plus, he got a big hug from Coach K. That has to be worth something, right?
And the Georgia Tech game ball goes to … Chris Bolden. Bolden was the clear offensive threat during the game for Georgia Tech. He was the only player to score in double figures, notching a career-high 20 points. Bolden added four rebounds and an assist to his performance which proved to be not good enough to carry his team past the first half.