ATLANTA - The Blue Devils clinched the 17th regular season ACC Championship in program history with a 73-66 victory over Georgia Tech Wednesday, but the win did not come easy.
After a technical foul on Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, the No. 1 Blue Devils (26-1, 14-0 in the ACC) found themselves trailing the unranked Yellow Jackets (10-15, 3, 11), 45-36, with 18:54 remaining in the second half.
And with superstar J.J. Redick struggling from the field, the Blue Devils turned to Shelden Williams-and an improved defensive effort-for an answer.
Georgia Tech scored first after Krzyzewski's technical to make the score 47-36, and the Blue Devils called timeout with 17:30 to play.
After the timeout, the oft-overlooked Williams took over. Redick missed a three-pointer-he was 2-for-13 from the field at that point-but Williams was there. He grabbed the rebound and scored while being fouled, hitting the free throw.
Williams scored Duke's next six points to close the deficit to two. He finished the night with 26 points and 11 rebounds.
"We were able to get Shelden the ball in the second half and he asserted himself," Kryzyewski said. "He was the key offensively for us."
But as good as Williams was, it would not have mattered without the Blue Devils' defensive effort. From the timeout at the 17:30 mark until one minute remained and Duke led by 11, the Blue Devils outscored Georgia Tech, 33-11.
"It's one of the few times all year where all of a sudden, J.J. is not hitting," Krzyzewski said. "I thought for awhile we didn't step up defensively to make up for that, but in the second half we did."
After Williams' personal nine-point run, Redick tied the game at 47 on a pair of free throws. The Yellow Jackets responded, however, scoring the next six points. They led, 53-47, going into the television timeout with 11:44 to play.
After the stoppage, Duke scored four points with baskets by McRoberts and Williams. Then with 9:44 remaining, Redick picked up a loose ball and drove to the basket alone, but he missed the lay-up. McRoberts hustled after the play and dunked in the rebound, tying the game.
Redick scored Duke's next five points on two long jumpers to give the Blue Devils a lead they would not relinquish.
From that point, the inexperienced Yellow Jackets started putting Redick on the line with what Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt called "immature plays."
"When you have a player of J.J. Redick's caliber, who's obviously having a tough night by evidence of some of the easy shots that he missed, you can't bail him out by putting him on the foul line," Hewitt said. "You don't need to give him the weapon to put you away."
Redick finished with 22 points, leaving him nine points shy of passing Dickie Hemric's ACC career points record of 2,587.
The Yellow Jackets shot 70.8 percent from the field in the first half. Center Ra'Sean Dickey and forward Jeremis Smith dominated Duke's interior defense over the first 20 minutes for a combined 18 points, and Zam Frederick dished out seven assists.
"I think that's the best that anyone's executed against our defense all year," Krzyzewski said.
On the technical foul call, Kryzyewski said he did not curse at the officials, but joked that it "looked like I would have, and I have that look."
"I know it wasn't favoritism," Kryzyewski quipped. "I was surprised, but I was surprised that J.J. was 2-for-17, too. It was a night of surprises."
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