ACC Basketball

Duke Does What Duke Does…A Lot

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It’s not easy to find one stat within a game that can really sum up one team’s season. Yet, I think I’ve done it with Georgia Tech. Five times in their game with Duke they were within one-point and had the ball. All five times they failed to take the lead. One time the Yellow Jackets turned the ball over, the other four times they just missed the shot (more often than not, easy shots).

The last time was at the 7:19 mark in the second half. Marcus Georges-Hunt had just hit a three to get Tech to within one, then stole the ball and drove it hard through the Duke D and then simply missed a semi-challenged layup. Rebound Blue Devils, followed by quick Quinn Cook layup…might as well have been ball game.

In a nutshell, that’s Georgia Tech basketball. They challenge you, they play well, but when it comes time to win the game, they don’t/can’t/whatever. Take away their blowout loss to Virginia and they’ve lost seven ACC games by a total of 33 points (4.7 per game) after falling to Duke, 72-66.

Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory made a concentrated effort to attack Jahlil Okafor in the middle and I can’t blame him. Okafor is a star on the offensive side of the ball. He will be the top pick in the draft and soon enough he will be a NBA star, but right now he’s a terrible, terrible one-on-one defender in the paint. Tech knew this and went after him again and again…the problem is, they just lack a talented big to do enough damage. Starting center Demarco Cox and backup Charles Mitchell took 17 shots, just about all of them against Okafor, but the pair only managed to hit seven. Yes, Duke’s center had a couple good blocks, but many of their misses were just that…misses. It’s hard to believe a remotely decent big man wouldn’t have abused Okafor with the positioning he was giving up inside.

Marcus Georges-Hunt, the man usually associated with taking shots for Tech, finished the game with 14, but it was not a good 14. The Blue Devils played man for all but two possessions, yet Tech’s best scorer refused to do what he does best and drive to the rim. More often than not, he wasn’t even looking at the rim, instead settling to pass to un-open teammates.

Luckily for the Yellow Jackets, Chris Boldin finally found his stroke. He hit four threes, a season high, leading the team with 16 points. In fact, the conference’s worst three-point shooting team hit a stunning 8-11. Hell, Tadric Jackson even hit a pair of treys and he entered the game 5-55 from three.

For Duke, Okafor did not have his finest game. Mainly because Tech’s big men are so big and wide, it’s tough to get position down low, but I’ve noticed over the last two games, Duke’s big man is drifting further and further away from the basket. In this game, he was clearly starting too far out and by the time he backed his defender down, he was often still outside the paint. Okafor needs to get one foot back in the lane if he’s hoping to avoid more 5-12 nights.

Yet, this Duke team is not all about their center. Justise Winslow continues his resurrection. He again attacked the basket like a man, hitting 5-6 shots, while Quinn Cook does what any senior should do when playing a tight game against an inferior foe…he stepped up. He finished with 17 points, all in the second half, himself attacking the basket with authority. Of course he probably did this because he was 1-8 from deep, so there’s that.

In the end, Duke gets the win and is now just one win away from yet another 20-win season (remember when that number meant something?). At 6-3 in conference, they are a half game behind (7-3) North Carolina for fourth place and two games back of Virginia. Georgia Tech falls to 10-12 on the year, 1-9 in conference.

Fun fact: During ESPN’s telecast, Dickie V talked about seeing Mark Price’s son play at a school called Cardinal Mooney in Sarasota, Fla. The first girl I French Kissed was a girl who went to Cardinal Mooney (It was actually in middle school, but she eventually went there). You’re welcome, America. 

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