ATLANTA— Tre Jones saw a sky-high Cassius Stanley soaring in the air, and he knew what to do.
The sophomore guard tossed up the lob, and Stanley slammed it home, absorbing the foul and converting the free throw for the and-one.
That first dunk knotted up the score at 53, but Stanley wasn’t done yet. The freshman guard took it to the rim himself on the Blue Devils’ next possession, completing the dunk trifecta just a few minutes later on another alley-oop.
Stanley kept Duke’s offense afloat in the second half, scoring eight crucial second-half points to lead the Blue Devils to a 73-64 win against Georgia Tech Wednesday evening in McCamish Pavilion. The victory is Duke’s 12th consecutive win against the Yellow Jackets, dating back to 2010, the team's longest active streak against an ACC opponent.
"Just a heck of a game," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "[Georgia Tech is] a very good basketball team... I think they can play with anybody. That’s a big time win for us because their crowd was great and they were really good."
Jones—who was celebrating his 20th birthday Wednesday—led the Blue Devils with 16 points, adding seven assists and eight rebounds. Stanley totaled 14 points in the contest, while Vernon Carey Jr. finished with 14 points as well to go along with six rebounds and four turnovers.
Duke took a commanding 40-29 lead into halftime behind a 21-9 run to end the first half. But then Georgia Tech did what it hadn’t done all season—hit from outside. The Yellow Jackets hit three consecutive 3-pointers and quickly jumped out to a 51-50 edge with under 12 minutes left in the contest.
Stanley's trio of slams followed soon after.
"Just trying to put it in a place no one else can get it," Jones said of what goes through his mind when he sees Stanley running the floor. "Because he's the only person in the country that can get up like that. When he's running like that, he's by himself. You got to give it to him. There's no better athlete in the country to be able to do that, to be in that position."
The two teams traded leads for much of the second half, but finally, with just under a minute left, it was Javin DeLaurier who clinched the game for Duke.
With the Blue Devils up 68-64, the senior captain swatted a James Banks III jumper, following the block up with two free throws on the other end to give Duke a six-point edge with 56 seconds left.
Things looked worrisome for Duke (14-1, 4-0 in the ACC) near the start of the first half. After a Jones three gave Duke a 6-5 lead, Georgia Tech (7-8, 2-3) responded by scoring four consecutive buckets in the paint to take a 14-6 advantage with 14 minutes remaining in the first half.
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Nearly the entirety of the Yellow Jackets’ offense in the first half came from the paint, including 18 of their first 22 points. The home team didn’t hit its first jumper until Bubba Parham knocked down a trey with two minutes left in the half.
Overall, Georgia Tech—who entered the contest dead last in the ACC in 3-point field goals and second-to-last in 3-point percentage—shot 5-of-16 from beyond the arc, with its three straight threes in the second half proving to be the outlier rather than the norm.
"I wouldn't say it was a strategy to let them shoot it," Jones said. "We knew which players could shoot, which players couldn't, but we also knew the strengths of the players and their team as well. So we had to kind of pick our poison in certain situations in what you wanted to do, and they were just able to hit some of those open threes tonight."
What the Yellow Jackets excelled at, however, was effort on both ends of the floor. Banks tallied seven blocks and a career-high 15 boards to go along with his 14 points, while Georgia Tech as a team out-rebounded Duke 39-30.
One player who struggled for the Blue Devils was Joey Baker, who made his second career start. The sophomore forward played a mere four minutes, scoring zero points and posting just a turnover and a foul.
Next, Duke will return home to Cameron Indoor Stadium to take on Wake Forest Saturday at 8 p.m. With the Blue Devils' conference schedule heating up, this kind of tight matchup should prepare the team for its upcoming ACC battles.
"Coach told us ahead of time, 'We're not going to blow this team out,'" Stanley said. "It's going to be a fight. And he's like, 'This is a real ACC game.' Even in the middle of the game, he was like 'This is more like an ACC game.' He was just telling us we got to tough it out, got to be a dog."