For most of Duke’s 80-69 victory over Georgia Tech Duke looked like a team worthy of top 15 ranking, pushing the lead over the Yellow Jackets to 26 at one point. As per usual with Coach K’s latest crop of young Devils, the second half happens. It’s not clear whether this Duke team simply lacks a killer instinct, whether they get bored or whether they simply let mistakes compound and build on one another. Either way this trend of allowing teams to go on late second half runs has been a problem. Georgia Tech was able to go on a 15-2 run to make things interesting on their home floor and Duke’s defense which despite comments to the contrary has been playing fairly well. What Duke has not been doing well is limiting second chance opportunities. Consider Duke’s largest lead was 26 points, they won the game by 11 and gave up 16 second chance points. The discrepancy lies in the aforementioned. The Blue Devils allowed 16 offensive rebounds to Georgia Tech. Duke guards were the main culprit, failing to box out time and time again. It’s not to say that Duke didn’t rebound the ball well but the ones you don’t get are the ones that kill you and Duke allowed several put back dunks simply because they failed to put bodies on Tech players. Assuming the position of a rebounder is not the same as boxing out – a lesson this team has failed to master at this juncture of the season.
There were plenty of positives for Duke in this game, Grayson Allen was much more aggressive offensively in Marvin Bagley’s absence due to a minor knee sprain. The senior guard scored a team high 23 points, and dished 5 assists and started at point guard for the Devils. Down the stretch Grayson seemed to struggle offensively turning the ball over in key stretches of the game but overall the senior played a game much more indicative of what Duke fans and coaches are used to. In what was essentially his homecoming game Wendell Carter had a great night offensively and defensively. The freshman power forward scored 19 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Carter, in from of his mom Kylia also added 2 assists and 4 blocked shots. In a somewhat surprising move, Coach K started freshman Alex O’Connell in place of Trevon Duval and Marques Bolden in place of the injured Marvin Bagley. Bolden went 4-7 from the floor for 8 points and pulled down 6 boards in 25 minutes of play. O’Connell added 3 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in his first start as a Blue Devil. Gary Trent Jr. continued his streak of hot shooting knowing down 2 of 2 from beyond the arc and scoring 15 points, pulling down 6 rebounds and dishing 3 assists in 30 minutes.
Overall, Duke needed a win after 2 consecutive defeats in games they should have been able to win. If you grasp the cup half full analogy Duke played well for a longer stretch than they did in the last two games, perhaps its just a matter of gaining a few minutes each time out where they aren’t completely in a daze. I’ll take it as long as it trends in the right direction.