ATLANTA—Fresh off of a pair of dominant ACC victories against Boston College and Miami, the Blue Devils kept rolling out of the gates Wednesday night, heading into the locker room at McCamish Pavilion leading Georgia Tech 40-29. Here are five observations from the opening period.
With Wendell Moore Jr. sidelined due to a broken bone in his hand, forward Joey Baker slid into the starting lineup, only the second start of the sophomore sharpshooter’s career. However, Baker would not be the primary beneficiary of Moore’s absence, as the Fayetteville, N.C., native scored no points in just four minutes of action. Instead, it was junior guard Alex O’Connell that stood out, putting up seven points.
Carey struggles early
Vernon Carey Jr. is among the best players in all of college basketball, but he looked lost to open Wednesday night’s contest. On Duke’s first possession, the freshman center traveled, resulting in one of his two turnovers in the half. More concerning than his offensive mistakes were his struggles in anchoring the Blue Devil defense, as Carey allowed several easy Yellow Jacket finishes at the rim. Carey would recover as the half progressed, scoring nine points.
Watch out for wedgies
Duke may not have been able to bully Georgia Tech like it wanted to in the first half, but that did not mean that the McCamish Pavilion crowd would miss out on seeing some wedgies. The ball got stuck between the rim and backboard not once, but twice in the first seven minutes of the contest, resulting in a pair of jump balls.
Hot and cold
The Yellow Jackets simply could not miss at the start of the game, sinking six of their first seven shots to give them an early 14-6 advantage. The home team’s luck would not last long, as Georgia Tech missed 12 of its next 15 field goal attempts to allow the Blue Devils to retake the driver’s seat, using a 34-15 run to close the half ahead comfortably.
Player of the half: Tre Jones
Though Jones took just four shots, the sophomore point guard held Duke together during an at-times rocky first half. A 12-second sequence early in the period in which Jones picked up a steal, grabbed an offensive rebound and knocked down a 3-pointer encapsulated how he kept the Blue Devils afloat, while a buzzer-beating tip-in was the cherry on top of Jones' do-it-all performance.
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