Duke vs. Georgia Tech score: Tre Jones, No. 2 Blue Devils slog early before destroying Yellow Jackets
Duke's 3-point shooting remains a problem -- but not a big one -- against vastly inferior teams
Quirky things can happen when teams have their best players return from injury. Sometimes it's not an immediate jell or a smooth transition.
On Saturday, No. 2 Duke found itself in that position -- but only temporarily. Duke's home game against 11-9 Georgia Tech was actually in doubt for more than half the contest; it was building toward a potentially shocking upset. Duke made only one of its first 14 3-point attempts, and Georgia Tech keyed a 13-3 run between the end of the first and the start of the second half.
The Yellow Jackets in fact led at the half, putting Duke in a deficit after 20 minutes for just the second time this season. And then things went just about as expected. Duke wound up winning 66-53, getting 24 points from RJ Barrett and 22 from Zion Williamson. They were the only Blue Devils to hit double figures. Jones started, finishing with six points, four rebounds, four assists and a steal.
The win marked the 36th time in the last 39 meetings against Georgia Tech that Duke won in this series. The proudest moment for Josh Pastner's Yellow Jackets crew: it held Duke to a season-low in points and, in the first half, kept the Blue Devils to their worst field goal percentage of the season (29.6).
Then an 11-0 Duke run, which expanded to a 25-7 run led by Barrett, flipped the game. In the final 10 minutes, it was like a completely different game.
And then it was pretty much a wrap when this happened. Yes, Williamson just about hit his head on this alley-oop.
Barrett wasn't short on highlights, either. Georgia Tech wilted under Duke's pressure and the din of Cameron Indoor.
Though there were initial struggles, this was probably the best scenario in which to get Jones back. He's arguably the team's best defender (Williamson had a few plays this game to remind us why he is the most feared Blue Devil every minute he's on the floor). His ability to run the offense is crucial, especially considering how unreliable Duke is from 3-point range.
That's not usually the case.
In most seasons, Duke has a lethal ability to win or keep games close with one, two or sometimes even three players hovering around the 40-percent mark from 3. But,, this season's Duke squad is tracking as the worst from 3-point range since the 1990s. It's nearly as problematic from the foul line (67.6 heading into this game, but made 84 percent on Saturday).
Duke hit only two of its 21 3-point attempts vs. Georgia Tech and still managed to win by 13 points. That's not a sustainable offensive model, though. Duke's now making just 30 percent of its 3s this season, which ranks among the lowest of teams in power conferences.
This will absolutely come back to bite this team in March if it can't string together more consistent shooting from beyond the arc. For now, it's a complication. Maybe even a real worry. In March, it could turn into an obstacle too tough to overcome.
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