ATLANTA - As the United States celebrated the peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next Saturday, Georgia Tech fans watched the less-than-peaceful continuation of Duke's ACC dominance at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
Second-ranked Duke (17-1, 5-0 in the ACC) downed unranked Georgia Tech, 98-77, with a combination of Duke's trademark defense and the No. 1 scoring offense in the ACC.
The Blue Devils outscored the Yellow Jackets (10-7, 2-4) 52-33 by halftime due to the offensive efforts of sophomores Jason Williams and Carlos Boozer, who combined for 34 first-half points. Shane Battier ran a clinic for the Georgia Tech offense in the second half, tying his career high with 34 points of his own. Battier scored 30 points in the second half alone, including a 14-3 personal run over in just under two minutes.
"I've had stretches where I felt good this year and last year, but nothing like this," Battier said of his game-winning effort.
The Blue Devils got off to a shaky start, as Williams avenged an early three-point Yellow Jacket lead with eight unanswered points. Williams opened the Blue Devils' scoring with a layup and two quick treys. Georgia Tech never again led in the contest.
"Jason Williams is a great ballhandler," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. "He's too good a ballhandler and too dangerous in the open court."
Both sides were plagued by fouls in the intensely physical contest, but the Yellow Jackets' leading scorer and 6-foot-11
"[Alvin Jones' foul trouble] was pretty significant," Hewitt said. "What we do every day is based on his presence and when he was out of there, Battier just took over."
The Blue Devils capitalized on the Yellow Jackets' fouls, as Boozer went 10-for-12 from the foul line in the first half. After Hewitt benched Jones to save him for the second stanza, Duke built on a 14-point lead to head into the locker room ahead 52-33.
"Not that they need my approval, but I've got a lot of respect for Duke," Hewitt said. "People load up and give them their best shot and they never make any mistakes for lack of effort."
Duke became looser with the ball in the second half, outscoring Georgia Tech by only two points, 46-44. Sophomore Mike Dunleavy suffered the most from Duke's lack of focus in the last seven minutes of the contest. After an early miss, the Yellow Jacket fans shouted "Airball," every time the forward handled the ball.
Dunleavy attempted to regain his confidence and silence the crowd with a bucket, but it was not meant to be. The sophomore native struggled all afternoon, only converting 2-for-9 from the field and 0-for-2 from the line.
"It was a hard-fought game today, and it was tough to get a rhythm," Krzyzewski said. "I thought we were a little lax with the ball in the last seven minutes."
In spite of Dunleavy's underwhelming performance, Battier's 30 second-half points boosted the Blue Devils past the Yellow Jackets. The senior forward began his tear with a short jumper from the foul line, followed by two threes to boost Duke, 68-46.
The Georgia Tech bench and Hewitt earned a technical foul, giving Battier more free chances.
The usually hostile Yellow Jacket crowd cheered as the senior missed for the first time in over a minute. However, the Thrillerdome audience was then dazzled by 12 more points in the next minute as Battier sunk a pair each of field goals, foul shots and three-pointers.
Battier led all scorers with 34 points, shooting 63.2 percent from the floor, including four three-pointers. Boozer and Williams each turned in 24 points. Boozer also came one rebound away from a double-double.
Despite four fouls, Jones returned late in the second half to pick up eight more points to finish with 13 for the Yellow Jackets. "We've won a lot of close games," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We're a good team, but we're not a dominant team. There's no one who's dominant-we've just been lucky to hit shots and win close [games]."
The victory marked Duke's ninth straight over Georgia Tech, and the Blue Devils lead the series 30-15 in the Krzyzewski era.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.