Duke (20-5, 9-3) – Georgia Tech (13-12, 4-8) Preview
Randy Dunson & Brian Horace
January 18, 2014
After a miraculous win against Maryland at Cameron on Sunday, Duke travels to Atlanta on Tuesday, February 17; their second game this season with Georgia Tech. This will be their first time in playing in McCamish Pavilion. The Blue Devils crushed Tech in their first game 79-57. Duke is ranked No. 5 in the Associated Press and No. 6 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. The Blue Devils are 74-24 all-time when ranked No. 5 in the AP Poll. The Blue Devils are 19-2 against unranked opponents this season with their only losses coming on the road against ACC foes Notre Dame (77-79) and Clemson (59-72). Duke has won three of its past four road games. The only loss during that stretch came at No. 2 Syracuse, 91-89, in overtime. The Blue Devils have a busy week coming up because their rivalry game with North Carolina was postponed due to the winter storm. That game was rescheduled for February 20, just two nights after their visit to Atlanta, and two nights before they host No. 1 Syracuse.
Georgia Tech resumes its four-game home stand after a weekend bye in the schedule. Tech, 2-4 at home in conference play this season, rallied Thursday night at McCamish Pavilion for a 74-71 victory over Boston College in a game postponed one night due to the snow and ice storm in Atlanta. Tech is tied with Wake Forest for 11th place in the ACC standings. In its third season under head coach Brian Gregory, Tech has played its entire conference schedule to date with no more than nine scholarship players, sometimes with as few as seven, as it did for most of the game at Wake Forest and the entire contests against Clemson and Virginia. Senior guard Trae Golden (groin) has missed two of Tech’s last three games, but sophomore forward Robert Carter, Jr., has returned from a knee injury to play a total of 40 minutes in Tech’s last two games after missing the first 10 ACC games. The Yellow Jackets Tech finishes off its home stand this Saturday against Clemson, then looks ahead to three straight road games at Notre Dame, Florida State, and Syracuse.
Team Seasons Thus Far
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
In their last outing, sophomore guard/forward Marcus Georges-Hunt (12.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG, and 2.2 APG) scored 15 points, including a go-ahead 3-pointer with 0.7 seconds remaining, and Georgia Tech beat Boston College 74-71 on Thursday, February 13. Senior center Daniel Miller (11.4 PPG, 7.7 RPG) led Georgia Tech with 18 points and senior forward Kammeon Holsey (7.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG) added 15. The game was scheduled for Wednesday night and postponed due to the winter storm that covered Atlanta in snow and ice. Sound familiar…? Sophomore forward Robert Carter Jr. (9.9 PPG, 8.5 RPG) had 10 points for Georgia Tech. Carter missed 10 games following surgery to repair torn meniscus in his left knee. He shared the ACC lead with his average of 9.3 rebounds per game when he hurt the knee. He had five points in 16 minutes in his return against Virginia on Saturday, and was more effective against the Eagles. Georgia Tech was without leading scorer senior guard Trae Golden (groin) [13.4 PPG, 3.1 APG]. Golden led the Yellow Jackets with a career-best 24 points in their 68-60 win at Boston College on January 21.
Georgia Tech is 9-5 at McCamish Pavilion this season, but only 2-4 against the ACC. Tech’s home ACC wins were against Notre Dame (January 11) and Boston College (February 13). Georgia Tech’s last four ACC road trips have produced two wins, an overtime loss, and a four-point loss. Tech has won five of its last 11 ACC road games, winning at Virginia Tech, Wake Forest (twice), Miami and Boston College in that stretch. As noted above Trae Golden sat out the Boston College game, his second DNP in three games due to a groin injury suffered January 29 against North Carolina. He played 18 minutes against Virginia (0 points) and eight minutes against Wake Forest (3 points). After missing the first 10 ACC games because of a knee injury, Robert Carter, Jr., played 16 minutes (5 points, 2-7 FG, 2 rebounds) against Virginia and 24 minutes against Boston College (10 points, 5-7 FG, 5 rebounds). Jason Morris has likely played his final game in a Tech uniform after breaking a bone in his right foot in Tech’s January 29 game against North Carolina. The senior swingman underwent surgery February 3 and is out indefinitely. He played only nine games this season. Also mentioned above, Tech has played its ACC games this season with as few as seven scholarship players. Carter, Jr., Morris, and guards Travis Jorgenson and Solomon Poole had combined for 22 starts before this season and were all projected as major contributors this season when practice began. They have missed a total of 60 games this season (Carter, Jr., 10, Golden 2, Jorgenson 21, Morris 16, and Poole 11). The Jackets have been outrebounded in six of 12 conference games after winning the rebound battle against all 13 non-conference opponents this season. The absence of Robert Carter, Jr., the ACC’s leading rebounder at the time of his injury (9.3 per game), has been a large factor in that.
Duke Blue Devils
Duke’s last game was one that should have never have been as dramatic as it ended up being. In what turned out to be yet another uncharacteristic nail-biter at Cameron Indoor Stadium, freshman forward Jabari Parker scored 23 points and blocked one of Maryland’s two shots in the final 10 seconds of the Blue Devils’ 69-67 victory Saturday night, February 15. However, the real hero of the game was sophomore forward Amile Jefferson (more below). Rodney Hood and Rasheed Sulaimon added 11 points each for the Blue Devils, who won their eighth in nine games and started a run of four games in eight nights by giving the Terrapins a hard-to-swallow loss in their last scheduled visit to Cameron Indoor Stadium. The ACC’s top 3-point shooting team was just five of 24 from long range and shot 23 percent in the second half. Duke led by double figures for all of about 15 seconds before scratching its way to the 20-win mark for the 18th straight year. Maryland’s Dez Wells, who single-handedly took over in the second half, missed a jumper over Hood with about 50 seconds left. Duke milked the shot clock before Jefferson missed a jumper that failed to draw iron, giving the Terrapins the ball. The teams traded timeouts with just under 19 seconds left before Maryland worked the ball inside to Charles Mitchell, another Terrapin player who gave Duke fits in both halves. He had one hook shot blocked by Parker with about 7 seconds left, and another bounced twice on the rim but did not fall through. The rebound made its way to Jefferson (12 rebounds), who was fouled with 1.1 seconds left and hit a free throw to end the scoring. Wells could not get off an 80-foot heave before the buzzer, sealing Duke’s 30th straight victory at Cameron, tied Stephen F. Austin for the longest active home streak in the country.
The Blue Devils reached 20 victories for the 18th straight season and 49th time overall Saturday following the 69-67 win over Maryland. Duke has won at least 20 games in 30 of head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s 34 seasons. Duke has won eight of its past nine games with the lone loss during that stretch coming at the hands of now-No. 1 Syracuse, 91-89, in overtime. Duke has beaten five of those nine opponents by 20 points or more. Duke is 4-0 this season when playing with just one full off day between games.
Freshman forward Jabari Parker (19.3 PPG, 8.5 RPG) has scored at least 20 points in three straight games and a Duke freshman-record 15 times overall this season. The 15 20-point games are tied for the third most by an ACC freshman and trail the league record of 19 set by Kenny Anderson of Georgia Tech in 1989-90. He is attempting to become the first Duke freshman to lead the team in scoring and rebounding in the same season. Only two freshmen have led Duke in scoring, and only six have led the team in rebounding. Sophomore guard Rasheed Sulaimon (9.2 PPG, 2.5 APG 47.5 3P%) and senior guard Tyler Thornton (3.2 PPG, 2.2 APG, 47.6 3P%) are shooting a combined .516 (32-of-62) from three-point range since Duke began ACC play. Sulaimon boasts a team-leading .541 (20-of-37) clip, while Thornton owns a .480 (12-of-25) percentage in ACC play. Sulaimon also has scored in double figures in eight of 12 ACC games and averages 11.0 points and 3.3 assists per game in conference play. He leads Duke with 29 assists over his past seven games and owns a 2.63:1 assist-to-turnover ratio during that span. Sophomore forward Rodney Hood (16.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.0 APG) is the only player in the ACC to rank among the league’s top 10 in scoring (8th, 16.3 PPG), field goal percentage (4th, .487 – 135-of-277), free throw percentage (5th, .837 – 87-of-104), three-point percentage (2nd, .443 – 51-of-115) and made three-pointers per game (7th, 2.0 3PG). In ACC games, Amile Jefferson (7.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG) ranks fourth in the league with 8.3 rebounds per game and 3.3 offensive rebounds per game. Jefferson, who trails only Jabari Parker’s ACC-leading 9.0 rebounds per game in conference play for the team lead, has four double-digit rebound games since conference play began. [Note: Stats in parentheses are overall]
Duke leads the overall series 67-23, and is 54-19 against Tech since the Jackets joined the ACC. Georgia Tech and Duke are playing twice this season for the first time since the 2009-10 season, when the teams also played each other in the ACC Tournament. Duke has won 30 of the last 33 games in the series and the last six in a row. The Blue Devils won the first meeting this season by a score of 79-57 on January 7 in Durham. Duke has not yet played at McCamish Pavilion. The teams’ only meeting in Atlanta since the 2009-10 season was played at Philips Arena on January 7, 2012. The Blue Devils won 11 of the last 13 meetings at Alexander Memorial Coliseum and posted a 21-13 lead over Tech in games played on the Jackets’ former home court, as well as a 25-16 mark in games played in Atlanta. Tech’s best stretch of the series occurred between 1982 and 1989, with 10 wins in 17 meetings. Tech has never won more than two in a row. The Jackets are 19-56 against Duke teams coached by Mike Krzyzewski, 12-18 in games played in Atlanta. Tech has won just five of 38 games played at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the first four coming in (1959, 1984, 1987, and 1996). Tech’s most recent win occurred on March 3, 2004 in a 76-68 victory, which snapped a 41-game home court winning streak for the Blue Devils. Georgia Tech is 3-7 against the Blue Devils in ACC Tournament encounters. Tech defeated Duke on the way to each of its three tournament titles, including semifinal victories in 1985 and 1990 and a first-round triumph in 1993. The Blue Devils have defeated Tech three times in championship games (1986, 2005, and 2010).
In terms of a few select overall season statistical parameters thus far, Duke leads in all categories, which gives the Blue Devils a significant edge head-to-head.
Game Keys/Four Factors to Winning
Duke has the edge in all four factors. They have a significant edge in three, shooting (eFG%) at 55.2 vs. 48.4, ball handling (TO%) at 14.3 vs. 19.1, and shooting free throws (FT Rate) at 41.6% vs. 35.2%. Duke has a lesser edge in offensive rebounding (OR%) 34.0 vs. 32.5.
Key Points to Keep in Mind
As of late, Duke has done a much better job in garnering offensive rebounds. That will be a stat that they will look to improve on further vs. Georgia Tech. Duke outrebounded them in the first game but all things change on the road. Duke began the first game against the Yellow Jackets listless and out of sorts. Duke will need to stay sharp against a team searching for its identity like Tech. Duke has found out this year on several occasions that the margin for error is very thin for this team and on the road, it shrinks to even thinner. Duke will need to whether the crowd and the emotional surge that comes with a team playing a home game against Duke. Again, rebounding will be huge for Duke, but transition defense will be just as important. Duke tends to let teams back into games once they establish a lead by giving up fast break points. If Duke can limit these and couple it with aggression on offense, it can definitely take the crowd out of this game early. Manufacturing opportunities at the free throw line is a sure fire way to quiet the crowd and break up the rhythm of the opposing team.
Duke should be able to take the Yellow Jackets down in this game but it will take maximum effort from the Devils. We think with the given cluster of games Duke will be playing in such a short time span, Coach K will try to keep the tempo slower and play a lot more in the half court; perhaps using a bit more of the bench. Look for extended minutes from Marshall Plumlee, Matt Jones, and Josh Hairston to keep Duke starters fresh.