RJ Barrett double-double leads Duke past Georgia Tech

RJ Barrett had 24 points and 11 rebounds, and No. 2 Duke pulled away to beat Georgia Tech 66-53 on Saturday in point guard Tre Jones’ return to the lineup.

Zion Williamson added 22 points at home to help the Blue Devils (17-2, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) win their third straight and 12th in a row in the series with Georgia Tech.

Duke finished a season-worst 2 of 21 from 3-point range. But hit 52 per cent from the field in the second half to win its lowest-scoring game of the year.

Abdoulaye Gueye had 14 points and Michael Devoe added 11 for the Yellow Jackets (11-9, 3-4). Who have lost four of six but threw a scare into Duke for most of the day. Georgia Tech led 38-31 when Gueye banked in a jumper with just under 16 minutes remaining.

The Blue Devils countered with a 21-4 burst keyed by eight straight points from Barrett and capped by a layup from Williamson. Which made it 52-42 with just under eight minutes remaining.

Mike Krzyzewski could tell something was off with his Duke team. So he burned a timeout shortly after halftime to talk about it.

That the No. 2 Blue Devils responded with yet another double-figure victory taught the Hall of Fame coach something significant about them.

“Our guys were just different (after that timeout). Which says a lot about them,” Krzyzewski said. “This is a game you lose if you’re thinking about being a winner. It’s a game that winners win. When you can turn it around with 18 minutes to go and just really not playing well, and then playing great.”

Duke finished a season-worst 2 of 21 from three-point range but hit 52 per cent from the field in the second half to win its lowest-scoring game of the year.

Tre Jones returned to the Duke lineup Saturday, and likely none too soon. The Blue Devils needed every ounce of his on-ball defensive pressure to subdue a Georgia Tech team committed to playing its own brand of aggressive defence. The Blue Devils actually fell behind late in the first half and started slowly in the second half-two segments of the game where Mike Krzyzewski teams typically shine-before turning up the heat defensively and gradually taking control of the game in the final minutes.

“We didn’t hit some shots and we didn’t convert fast breaks in that first half,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski observed,“ adding “their defence and we worked together to score only 27 points. The second half didn’t start out well again.”

“I thought we were in a trance. After the time out our guys really started playing defence.”

Asked about his team’s poor shooting from three, Duke’s Krzyzewski said this: “Most of it was their defence, they play really good defence. You have to be ready to shoot. I didn’t think we were ready to shoot. We were catching it, and then their defence came on us.”

Krzyzewski also bemoaned his team’s play in transition. Normally a Duke staple, the Blue Devils recorded just seven fast break points: “We had the transition in the first half,” Coach K said. “We didn’t score. You’ve got to either score the bucket, or score on fouls, or both. You can’t come up empty in transition at the basket.” The Duke coach noted there were some transition failures in the second half as well, although he acknowledged that the quick fast break baskets when Georgia Tech led 38-31 gave his team a momentum surge.

But this was a day where Duke’s defence, especially in the second half, overshadowed the offence. The Blue Devils limited Tech to 41% from the floor and more importantly forced the Jackets into 19 turnovers.

Duke return to action on Monday evening.

Peace,

Burke

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