Feb. 3, 2016
By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
Tempting as it is to look to Tuesday’s game as a tale of two halves, it was more about six minutes in the second half where little went right for Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets led 40-36 at halftime, the game going largely as head coach Brian Gregory wanted. Tech was scoring big in the paint, and beating the Blue Devils 19-13 on the boards.
Yes, Duke hit some 3-pointers, making 6-of-13 over the first 20 minutes, but that’s what the Blue Devils do best. More importantly, Tech didn’t allow them to do anything else well. When Duke missed, the Jackets gathered 15 defensive rebounds on 17 missed shots. Duke managed three second-chance points.
“I thought we executed really well in the first half,” Gregory said. “We had 13 assists on 18 baskets. One of the things we talked about at halftime was making sure that we kept attacking the basket.”
A defensive adjustment by Duke associate coach Jeff Capel, who filled in for the ill Mike Krzyzewski, turned the tide.
The Blue Devils (16-6, 5-4 ACC) have played a lot of zone recently, a deference to manpower shortages and the loss of Amile Jefferson. The Jackets (12-10, 2-7) ate that up, scoring on 19 of 33 possessions and averaging 1.2 points per trip.
Answers were harder to come by when Duke went man-to-man.
“It’s interesting because . . . all we had worked on in preparation for this game was zone,” Capel said. “In the first half, 28 of their 40 points came in the paint and we weren’t aggressive with our defense. We were very passive. They were getting inside, driving us, and getting out in transition.”
In the second half, the Jackets scored on 15 of 37 possessions, averaging 0.84 points per trip. Even with a late-game boost, Tech fell to Duke for the ninth straight time, 90-81.
Jacobs made 2-of-7 shots, missing a few near the basket. Jackson made 2-of-3 from inside the arc, but took four 3-pointers and missed them all. So did his teammates; the Jackets missed all 11 3-point tries after halftime.
“At the end of the first half we made the decision to go man,” Capel explained. “We liked it, and we played it exclusively the whole second half. I thought it ignited everything about us. I thought it gave us energy and it ignited our offense.”
No argument there, although it took a spell.
Tech didn’t flinch at the man initially, making 4-of-7 shots to start the second half. As Duke settled in, problems came. The Jackets missed 10 straight shots after that, and following Jacobs’ 3-point play that pulled the Jackets within 54-53 with 11:59 left, the Blue Devils went on an 18-2 run to put the game out of reach.
They made five straight shots, the last a 3-pointer by Grayson Allen, who made seven long balls in total.
That prompted a Tech timeout, but the timeout didn’t prompt much else.
Duke scored the next seven points, taking a 72-55 lead on Marshall Plumlee’s tip-in with 5:35 remaining in the game.
The Blue Devils’ defensive changes zapped Tech’s aggression and pumped up Duke’s offense.
“We just weren’t able to get a stop,” Gregory said in the post-game radio interview. “Our transition defense was not good tonight, and some of that was a direct result of some difficult shots and some bad court balance in our offense.”
Leading scorer Marcus Georges-Hunt had a tough go of it for the second straight game, as if there’s a wall around him. It didn’t help that he suffered a hard fall on his tailbone early in the game.
He dished out seven assists, six in the first half, and finished with 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting.
The Jackets were out of balance, though, especially in that second half.
Georges-Hunt was 1-of-5 on trey tries on a night when Jackson scored 15 points but was 0-for-6 on 3-pointers and 6-of-7 otherwise. Smith and Jacobs led the Jackets with 17 points each.
Tech grabbed just nine defensive rebounds on 13 missed Duke shots after halftime, but the Blue Devils didn’t miss much, making 16-of-29 shots (including 5-of-10 treys).
While the Jackets were good in pulling in 10 offensive rebounds, they led to just three second-chance points. Duke outrebounded Tech 26-19 in the second half. “When [Georges-Hunt] is scoring for us, he’s in the mid-range, attacking the basket. Maybe relying a little too much on the jump shot outside the arc,” Gregory said on the radio. “There was a 10-minute stretch offensively, and then it led to defensive situations, we got out of sorts.
“We took bad shots, missed some shots around the basket. We wanted to attack the basket more …”