Time and time again, the Blue Devils have proven to be a second half team. Despite going into halftime down 28-27 to Georgia Tech, Duke was able to surge past the Yellow Jackets in the second half to secure its third conference win of the season.
The No. 3 Blue Devils beat Georgia Tech 73-57 at Cameron Indoor Stadium Thursday night, led by Seth Curry’s 24 points on 6-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc.
Duke (16-1, 3-1 in the ACC) struggled offensively in the first half, shooting 27.3 percent from the field while Georgia Tech (10-6, 0-4) shot 41.4 percent. With a crucial layup from freshman Amile Jefferson to end the first half, the Blue Devils went into the locker room extremely excited despite a sluggish start to the contest. Jefferson nearly chest-bumped classmate Rasheed Sulaimon to the ground.
Duke was pumped up throughout the entire second half, with head coach Mike Krzyzewski leading the charge. At one point during a timeout, Krzyzewski ran to midcourt to hug Mason Plumlee as the game was tipping into the Blue Devils’ favor.
“I think I give emotion a lot during my 33 years here at Duke so I am going to do whatever I think my team needs. I did that in 1980 and I should do it in 2013, so I thought that’s what my team needed, it’s what I gave,” Krzyzewski said.
Plumlee shot just 2-of-12 from the field in the first half, but finished the game 7-for-20, recording 16 points and 13 rebounds. Plumlee had some great looks in the first half but his shots—often hook shots—did not find the bottom of the net. He did not stop shooting, however, and things changed for him in the second 20 minutes of play. The senior captain said that the chances he had were good, and next time, he must capitalize.
“I got some great looks,” Plumlee said. “I might not get those looks ever again. I’ve just got to finish.”
Duke finished the game shooting 40 percent from the field and 68.8 percent from the charity stripe. Primarily due to senior guard Seth Curry’s buckets from long-range, the Blue Devils finished the game shooting 47.6 percent from the 3-point line.
Curry, who was just 2-of-6 from the field in the first half, finished the game 7-of-14 from the floor.
Jefferson saw significant minutes with the absence of Ryan Kelly, who is still sidelined indefinitely due to foot injury. While Kelly sat on the bench in a boot and on crutches, the freshman played a career-high 28 minutes in Thursday’s contest, recording 10 rebounds and six points. Jefferson grabbed six offensive rebounds, which were pivotal to the Blue Devil’s second-chance attempts. In addition to Jefferson’s standout play, Plumlee also recognized freshman Rasheed Sulaimon’s intensity and poise on the night.
“[Amile and Rasheed] gave us a huge lift,” Plumlee said. “Amile gave us a lift in the first half and Rasheed played well throughout the game…. That was his best game since we came back from Christmas break…. Amile is an opportunistic scorer…. He’s fun to play with.”
Jefferson seemed to light a fire under the Blue Devils. After seeing Krzyzewski get extremely emotional when he ran onto the court to embrace Plumlee, Jefferson also got riled up, rightfully so.
“If you can’t get up for it…when he’s hollering and screaming, I don’t know what type of player you are,” Jefferson said. “This is the game I love… to bring that emotion that coach gives and give it back to him…the crowd gives us energy and I want to give it back to them.”
Sulaimon, who started the game on the bench, came out raring to go and turned in one of his best performances in quite some time, Sulaimon finished with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting to go along with five rebounds.
“Rasheed had his best performance since Temple,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He had a month where he wasn’t playing up to the level that he can play, but tonight he did. Those two freshmen really helped us a lot.”