Friday night's contest between Georgia State and Duke remained tight into the second half, but an electrifying floor slap from Blue Devil sophomore Joey Baker pulsated energy that served as a turning point in the game for Duke.
To set the scene, the Blue Devils were having a slow start compared to the upstart Panthers for much of the evening, relying on the two-man game of Tre Jones and Vernon Carey Jr., nursing only a single-digit lead with 14 minutes remaining in the second half.
Now, enter Joey Baker, coming off of his warm seat on the bench, and contributing more to his team than he could have imagined with a simple slap of the Cameron Indoor Stadium hardwood on defense.
Baker placed his two hands onto the historic Cameron floor, as he crouched before a blue Georgia State uniform standing in front of him and his gesture seemed to say, 'bring it on.' The waves from his slaps spread through the court and up into the stands. He and his teammates wanted more, eventually pulling away for a 74-63 win.
“It’s kind of just one of those feelings on defense,” Jones said. "You’ve got the crowd behind you, you’ve got the momentum, and everyone is really locked in on defense and you just give a floor slap. Everyone that knows Joey knows that’s how he is, he can spark us at any time. A lot of people think it’s just with his threes but the energy he brings on defense with the floor slap led to a stop and a couple more buckets, so he definitely did bring us the energy tonight and that was huge.”
Jones was fired up with emotion from Baker’s lead, and, after a big stop, the sophomore guard went on to make an and-one on the other side of the court.
“That’s huge thing for Duke basketball over the years, the floor slap on defense. So with Joey leading it out there, I had to follow his lead and I think that sparked us a little bit for sure,” said Jones.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Baker followed and his confidence may have even inspired teammate Cassius Stanley to break through and actually complete one of his attempts from beyond the arc, as Stanley connected on his only make from beyond the arc minutes after Baker's pair of treys.
“It felt good. I think Tre found me both times, I told him I’d be ready when he drove, so they collapsed on him,” said Baker. “He was having a good night, so they closed in on him and I was open and knocked it down.”
This was the best game of Baker's career thus far, and he will have to follow through with this momentum to fire up his teammates as well as himself throughout the rest of the season.
“I don’t think it was confidence,” said Baker. “I just think it’s what the team needed today.”
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