For the second game in a row, Duke struggled against an inferior opponent. And once again, National Player of the Year candidate Jabari Parker wasn’t in peak form.
Unlike the last game—a 79-77 loss to Notre Dame that dropped the Blue Devils out of the top 10 for the first time since November 2007—Parker's teammates picked up the slack.
After going into halftime up 34-33 against Georgia Tech, No. 16 Duke stormed past the Yellow Jackets in the second half for a 79-57 win at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“We were dead in the first half,” said sophomore captain Rodney Hood, who led Duke with 27 points. “We didn’t play like we were just coming off a loss.”
Parker finished with 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting from the field—including 0-for-5 to start the game.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski credited Parker for his play early in the second half, when he hit two free throws and tipped in a shot off an offensive rebound. The freshman did admit that he feels a “a little bit” fatigued with the longer college basketball season.
“It’s not too much or too bad where I’m totally exhausted,” Parker said. “It’s more mental fatigue.”
Hood led the Blue Devils (12-3, 1-1 in the ACC) as they broke away in the second half, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to extend the lead to 16. He hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions again with less than two minutes remaining, pushing the lead to more than 20 for the first time.
All five of his treys came in the second period, which Krzyzewski attributed to an adjustment proposed by associate head coach Steve Wojciechowski, the lead scout for the game.
“He made a great suggestion toward the last eight minutes to go into a set that incorporated Rodney going into a ball screen and popping out,” Krzyzewski said. “He hit four threes from that.”
Amile Jefferson, starting his first game since Nov. 24, paced the team with 10 rebounds, adding six points.
Duke outrebounded Georgia Tech 33-25, the first time the Yellow Jackets were beaten on the glass all season and their lowest rebounding output of the year.
“The rebounding was excellent,” Krzyzewski said. “Amile was outstanding in that regard.”
Guard Marcus Georges-Hunt and center Daniel Miller were the only effective scorers for Georgia Tech (9-6, 0-2), combining for 32 points on 15-of-23 shooting. The rest of the team went 11-for-30 from the field.
Sulaimon scored 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting, also adding five rebounds in his first start of the season. He helped push the ball in the second half against the Georgia Tech defense, including one possession that set up Hood's first 3-pointer of the evening. He also made the game’s most acrobatic play, an off-balance 3-pointer in the first half with the shot clock expiring.
Jefferson and Sulaimon replaced Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton in the starting lineup, with the senior captains starting together for the previous eight games.
Point guard Quinn Cook made only 4-of-10 shots, but led the team with five assists. Three of those assists set up Hood 3-pointers.
Off the bench, Andre Dawkins added 10 points even though he finished only 1-for-5 from 3-point range. He made 5-of-6 free throws, tying a season-high for foul attempts.
The Yellow Jackets regularly fouled and Duke converted on those opportunities, making 22-of-25 free throws. Georgia Tech missed all six of its attempts from the so-called charity stripe.
“I think wins in the conference are going to be tough for everybody,” Krzyzewski said. “Every one you could get you should be thankful for.”