Georgia Tech 71, Duke 67, FINAL: With an imposing presence in the final stretch of the game, Gani Lawal was the hero as the Yellow Jackets downed the Blue Devils 71-67 Saturday afternoon in Atlanta. Out of a Georgia Tech timeout at the 1:11 mark, Lawal scored on a jumper with just over a minute to go to give Georgia Tech a four point lead. Duke missed on its next shot and Georgia Tech snared the ensuing rebound, but a successful corner trap by Duke led to a loose ball that bounced right to Miles Plumlee for an easy slam that narrowed the lead to two with :35 left. But perfect (7-for-7) free throw shooting by the Yellow Jackets down the stretch doomed the Blue Devils and sealed their second loss in as many true road games this season. Georgia Tech's intensity on the glass in the second half was a huge deciding factor in the contest. After trailing 20-12 in the rebounding margin at halftime, the Yellow Jackets pulled down 26 second-half boards to give them a 38-32 edge over Duke in the category at the game's end.
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Georgia Tech 60, Duke 58 (3:23, second half): It's been a frenetic stretch in the game as Duke has broken from its shooting slump with threes from Singler and Scheyer, but Georgia Tech has been steady at the free throw line and is a foul away from the double bonus, while Duke is still two fouls away from one-and-one shots. We're going to pack up the computer in advance of the end so that we can make it to the lockeroom in time for postgame interviews, but check back with the Sports Blog for full postgame coverage.
Georgia Tech 52, Duke 50 (6:16, second half): Gani Lawal scored six straight points to jump the Yellow Jackets out to a 5 point lead with just under 7 minutes remaining in the half. But with fans at the Thrillerdome roaring, Nolan Smith drained Duke's first three pointer since the first half to cut the Jackets' lead to 2 points. This game looks as if it'll go down to the wire.
Georgia Tech 44, Duke 43 (11:24, second half): Duke has remained ice cold from the floor and is now 2-for-18 from outside. The Blue Devils haven't hit a three-pointer since Kyle Singler hit one at the 6:22 mark of the first half, and Duke was mired in a three-plus minute scoring drought at the under-12 minute media break. Gani Lawal hit a turnaround jumper over Mason Plumlee to give Georgia Tech its first lead of the second half, firing up the home crowd. Shortly after the timeout, Lance Thomas picked up his 5th foul of the game, leaving Duke down a big man over the game's final 10 minutes.
Duke 41, Georgia Tech 35 (15:55, second half): Duke has continued to struggle from outside, missing four more long-range attempts in the first four minutes of the half to stretch their game mark to 2-for-16 from behind the arc. Duke's scoring has come from inside, with Mason Plumlee providing a quick spark off the bench. In a series of two possessions, Plumlee flushed an easy dunk down off a solid backscreen from Brian Zoubek before snaring a loose ball under the basket and laying in an easy bucket on the following offensive possession. Georgia Tech's Lawal was sent to the bench early in the 2nd half after picking up his third foul of the game.
Duke 35, Georgia Tech 29, HALFTIME: A late run by Duke widened its halftime lead to six but masked a pretty dismal half offensively on the part of the Blue Devils. Apart from Scheyer, who leads all scorers with 13 points, the Blue Devils have looked tentative and have struggled shooting the ball. The Blue Devils have shot a dismal 2-for-12 from outside the 3-point arc and increasingly settled for off-balance or contested shots as the half drew to a close. Duke's defense, although shaky and undermined by 11 fouls, has still done enough to keep the Blue Devils ahead. Duke leads by a wide margin in rebounding (20 first half boards to Georgia Tech's 12), and aggressive fronting defense on Derrick Favors has led to a scoreless first half for the Yellow Jackets' freshman phenom. Gani Lawal has 7 points for Georgia Tech, while freshman guard Mfon Udofia leads the hosts with 8 points.
Duke 25, Georgia Tech 23 (3:45, first half): If you're looking for clean, quality basketball, switch your TV to a different station. Both teams are in the penalty and have struggled to find high-percentage shots. In particular, Duke has jacked up an uncharacteristically large number of bad outside attempts. Although they average 42.6% shooting behind the arc on the year, the Blue Devils are 2-10 from long range so far.
Duke 14, Georgia Tech 12 (11:58, first half): Duke's scoring pace has slowed and Georgia Tech has begun to assert itself on the glass and in the paint over the last few minutes. Lawal snared a pair of hard fought rebounds over Miles Plumlee and slipped behind Plumlee when the Duke forward hedged up to pick up a dribbler at the top of the key, leaving Lawal open for an easy dunk. Favors has also gotten into the action, drawing a foul on a post move and just missing on an alley-oop attempt.
Duke 12, Georgia Tech 5 (15:01, first half): Scheyer is on fire. The senior guard has six points in the game's first 5 minutes—four of which came on after Scheyer nailed a three-pointer from the right corner and was fouled in the process by D'Andre Bell, providing an opportunity for a four-point play that he converted with a made free throw. Early on, it appears that Duke is working hard to frustrate Favors by fronting him. The strategy has seemed to work so far, as he has barely touched the ball.
Tipoff: The starters for Duke are as usual, with Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer at the guard spots, Kyle Singler and Lance Thomas at forward and Miles Plumlee in the middle. Georgia Tech will start Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors in the post, with Mfon Udofia, Iman Shumpert and D'Andre Bell at the guard positions. Duke is wearing blue tops and bottoms, while Georgia Tech is in all gold.
Pregame: A warm welcome from icy Atlanta, where the temperature outside is in the 2os but it's warm inside the Alexander Memorial Coliseum, where Duke and Georgia Tech will shortly square off in a battle of Top 20 teams. With only one true road game out of their first 14 games this year (a 73-69 loss to Wisconsin in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge), the Blue Devils will face only their second true test in an opponent's gym when they battle the Yellow Jackets this afternoon. Georgia Tech is currently on winter break and does not resume classes until Monday, and student attendance at the game appears lighter than normal, but the game is a sellout and the arena is rapidly filling as we near 15 minutes until tipoff.
The No. 20 Yellow Jackets stumbled in their last showing, losing 73-66 Wednesday night to rival Georgia on the road. That same night 800 miles to the north, Duke was busy dismantling non-conference opponent Iowa State. Led by a 31-point effort by guard Jon Scheyer in a homecoming game played at Chicago's United Center, the Blue Devils downed the Cyclones 86-65.
The largest challenge for Duke today will be to shut down Georgia Tech's talented big man duo of sophomore Gani Lawal and freshman Derrick Favors. The pair are amongst the most skilled big men that the Blue Devils have faced all year, so look for how Duke's post players handle the two talented forwards. For more on what to look for in today's matchup, check out our Pocket Guide to Duke-Georgia Tech, and make sure to check back with the Chronicle Sports Blog throughout today's game for live updates.
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