DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – Freshman Paolo Banchero had 17 points and 11 rebounds to help No. 2 Duke beat Georgia Tech 69-57 on Tuesday night in its return from a COVID-19 outbreak that had led to a pair of postponements.
Duke (12-1, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) had a rough night on offense and shot a season-low 37.3%. But the Blue Devils’ defense made things even tougher on the Yellow Jackets while Duke dominated the boards to grind through this one.
It was never easy for a team that has been ranked in the top 5 since before Thanksgiving. Duke led by 15 midway through the second half but struggled to put this one away, with the Yellow Jackets (6-7, 0-3) twice cutting the deficit to six in the final 4 1/2 minutes.
Still, Duke came up with answers – namely a vicious throwdown slam from AJ Griffin, a contested 3 from fellow freshman Trevor Keels and multiple late free throws – to stay in front.
Michael Devoe, who came in averaging a league-best 21.2 points, finished with 21 points for Georgia Tech. All but five of those came in the final 11-plus minutes, including the 3-pointer and driving score that twice brought the Yellow Jackets within six – the last time at 58-52 with 3:18 left.
Griffin finished with 12 points, while Mark Williams added 10 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks for Duke.
The Blue Devils hadn’t played since beating Virginia Tech in their ACC opener Dec. 22. League games at Clemson and Notre Dame were called off with coach Mike Krzyzewski saying cases had gone through “just about our whole team” from players to staffers.
The Blue Devils finished with a 48-35 rebounding advantage and more than doubled the Yellow Jackets (17-8) in second-chance points.
And the defense held the Yellow Jackets shot just 8 of 32 by halftime (25%) and finished at 33%.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets entered ranked in the bottom third of the league in both scoring (68.8 points) and shooting percentage (.448). Those troubles continued, with Georgia Tech at one point going 7 1/2 minutes without a basket – a stretch of 13 straight misses – as Duke slowly built a double-digit lead. The Yellow Jackets had offset some of those troubles by shooting 37.4% from behind the arc (fourth in the ACC), but they made just 6 of 20 in this one.
Duke: Krzyzewski said his team needs to get back into game shape, but that the Blue Devils also had to be careful to avoid “binge conditioning” with players risking injuries by pushing too hard to make up for lost time. That part could take a while, with challenges showing up in smaller details – like Moore throwing an entry pass for Williams to the wrong shoulder and out of bounds or Banchero bobbling away an easy pass late in the first half for an unforced over-and-back turnover near midcourt.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets host Notre Dame on Saturday.
Duke: The Blue Devils host Miami on Saturday.