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Duke 79 GT 57 : Meh , Then Good,Then Meh Again

Having had the misfortune of watching woeful and undersized Georgia Tech play several times this year, my hopes for tonight’s game were 1) for Duke to bring their a-game (after a pretty craptastic second half at UVA) ,2) come out of the gate strong ( for a change),3) get buoyed by 25 from Kyle Singler who would shoot about 50% from the floor and 4) win by at least 30.

Nope, nope,nope and…let’s see…carry the 1, divide by e and…oh ! nope.

Ok, ok, negatives aside, we did get the ‘W’, and convincingly. (though it must be said that I can not remember a year in the ACC with such a paltry number of consistently well-played and/or interesting games.Carolina over BC 48-46? VT, one of the conferences supposed contenders for an NCAA berth, losing to horrible UVA?Ugh.)

The first half was a foul-fest, in part due to Tech’s physical play, (as part of their game plan this year is to make up for their lack of height with “toughness”, quickness, and pressure on defense) and really, REALLY poor and inconsistent officiating. It was, in fact, poor enough to drive Coach K to pick up his first technical foul in what seems like several years. The Jackets came out hot initially on the offensive end hitting 5 of their first 7 attempts from the floor while Duke, as has become their custom this year, started very sluggishly, scoring only 8 points in the first 8 minutes. As a result, Tech was able to maintain a 3-6 point lead until the 7 minute mark, when Mason, who had an excellent first half, grabbed Duke’s 8th offensive rebound and fed Seth Curry for a three to put Duke up 23-22. A Mo Miller layup gave GT the lead right back, but it would be for the last time in the game. Duke held the Jackets scoreless over the final 3 minutes as part of a 9-0 run that parlayed into 37-28 lead at the half.

The second half picked up where the first one ended ( always nice to see), as Duke scored on 6 of it’s first 8 posessions, including 2 great assists by Seth Curry who led the team in that category with 6 on the night. All told , it was an impressive 22-9 run in just the first 6 minutes of the half to put Duke up 59-37. Said another way , it was a 14-9 advantage over that span for Nolan Smith, who pretty much abused All-ACC caliber defender Iman Shumpert en route to another de rigeur performance of 28 points 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Duke’s lead ballooned to 67-40, before they decided to take a little stopover in complacency-land, allowing GT to go on separate runs of 10-2 and 8-2 ( actually prompting Coach K to call a timeout with a minute and change left and up 20 to give a lackadaisical Andre Dawkins a little talking to), but the Jackets never got within 19.

And now, on to Game Notes.

- On one hand, Kyle had a solid game with 15 and 9 ( 4 offensive) and made a number of hustle plays. On the other hand, he continued to struggle from the floor ( 5-14), including a number of misses at or near the rim. He just doesn’t seem to be hitting shots we’re very accustomed to seeing him hit. The effort, of course, is there, but the results are simply lacking. He has to be better than merely solid if Duke is to make a substantial run this year. In his last 5 games he is averaging only 11 points per ( though his rebounding numbers are up over that span at 7 per).

- Ryan Kelly had his second straight quality game with 10 points. He and Mason(who tailed off in the second half due to fould trouble) combined for 19 points and 15 boards.

-Tyler was very solid on the evening with 6 points, 3 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals and no turnovers in 24 minutes and played his usual smart and agressive defense

- The story of this game is largely one of second chance points, where Duke held a 21-4 advantage. A lot of those points came on put backs, as evidenced by a 40-24 advantage on points in the paint. That’s not something we’re used to seeing, but, frankly, against a team as small as GT, it’s exactly what we should expect.

- Duke had only 10 turnovers against a pretty good defensive squad. (The Yellow Jackets lead the league in steals(9.5 pg) and creating turnovers (17 pg) ). This Duke team really takes care of the ball well and average only 12 turnovers per game, good for third in the ACC.