The first half didn’t look pretty… not pretty at all. Duke was down as much as seven in the first half, and were down 28-27 at the break. In the second half, Duke played a whole new brand of basketball raising their intense and unselfish play in the second earning them a 73-57 victory over Georgia Tech.
The Devils were shooting a dreadful 27 percent at intermission. They were sloppy, taking bad shots and creating their own turnovers. Mason Plumlee had five turnovers in the first half. However, the senior led his squad like a player of the year candidate should. Plumlee entered the second half with a boom and inspired Coach Mike Krzyzewski to burst out of his seat, jumping up and down and ending it with a big old hug for Mason.
Plumlee finished the game with 16 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks. But the help he got from his teammates was what led to the outpouring of success for the Blue Devils.
Seth Curry hid his ankle injury well. For a player who hasn’t been able to practice, it seemed like he has been taking shots all year. His consistent shooting from the outside led to an impressive 6-of-7 performance on his way to a game-high 24 points.
While Duke came started slow, it can be said that the Yellow Jackets had something to do with it. Georgia Tech started three freshmen and they all contributed to give the Cameron Crazies quite the scare in the first half. Guard Chris Bolden scored a team-high 20 points, and really set the tone for the Jackets early.
Teammates Daniel Miller and Robert Carter Jr. were aggressive down low. The 6-foot-11 Miller had 9 points and 9 rebounds — including five offensive boards — and that really put Duke in an early hole. Carter Jr. is regarded as a highly talented freshmen, and he certainly proved why, filling the stat sheet with 8 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks.
Georgia Tech’s energy kept them in the game, but Duke just pushed a lot harder in the second half. They showed why they’re the No.3 team in the nation. Duke had something to prove after losing their undefeated season on Saturday without one of their most important players in Ryan Kelly.
There are definitely some things that caught my eye in this game. With Kelly out indefinitely, the younger players had to show up:
- Amile Jefferson certainly impressed me. He had a solid game against N.C. State and proved that he can be consistent in back to back games. The freshmen put up 6 points, 10 rebounds, and 1 block off the bench. What I liked the most out of Jefferson was his motivation and energy every time he was on the court. He was active down low on both sides of the ball and found ways to make an impact during Duke’s run.
- Rasheed Sulaimon might have dug himself out of his slump. It ended up being a brilliant move by Coach K to pull Sulaimon out of the starting lineup for this game to use his talents off the bench, scoring 15 points. Sulaimon proved that Curry wasn’t the only one that could get hot from downtown, making 3-of-4 from three-point range and also added 5 boards.
- Quinn Cook continues to be a solid floor general for Duke. His stat sheet may not turn some heads, but his ability to run the offense and create opportunities for his teammates is very efficient. Cook contributed 7 points, 5 assists, 3 steals, and one block.
Even though Duke may not have had the most impressive all-around game, they proved that they can be explosive with a key player watching from the sidelines. The Blue Devils will have their hands full when they travel to take on Miami next Wednesday. That will be a tough task, and really show just how tough Duke is.
Greg Fitzpatrick is a staff writer for Devils in Durham. Follow him on Twitter @GregFitzpatric2