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One word for Duke men's basketball against Georgia Tech: Toughness

The Blue Devils got after it on both ends of the floor against the Yellow Jackets, hustling for loose balls until the final buzzer.
The Blue Devils got after it on both ends of the floor against the Yellow Jackets, hustling for loose balls until the final buzzer.

After a much-needed victory at home for the Blue Devils, the Blue Zone is here to give you a summary of the Duke's game against Georgia Tech in as concise a manner as we can—in one word:

One word: Toughness

In each of Duke’s three consecutive road losses, the team battled within striking distance during the closing minutes, but never figured out a way to get across the finish line. When Jose Alvarado hit that cold-blooded triple following a Blue Devil defensive miscommunication to give Georgia Tech a one-point lead at the 3:21 mark, it felt like Episode 4 of Duke’s Late Struggle was about to be on air Tuesday night. 

Only this time, the Blue Devils didn’t flinch. After the Yellow Jackets tied the game one last time at 68 apiece, Duke attacked on the next two offensive possessions and earned vital trips to the free-throw line. On the other end of the floor, Georgia Tech was held scoreless for the last 90 seconds of the game and rebounding team leader Matthew Hurt made sure that no second chance opportunities were given.

In a grueling contest that featured eight lead changes, the advantages on the glass and at the line were two key factors that helped Duke prevail. Duke outrebounded Georgia Tech 43 to 28 and took 17 more free throws. Through its hustle plays and aggressive attacks to the basket, Duke showed that the only way to beat a tough veteran team was by being tougher. 

Tuesday night’s game was by no means perfect. Offensive indecisiveness still plagued the team from time to time. Jeremy Roach and Wendell Moore Jr. performed underwhelmingly. But hopefully, those players can restore some confidence with the victory and build upon the collective toughness displayed in this game. A team that depends on sporadic flashes of certain individuals is occasionally dangerous, while a team that centers around collective toughness can always be formidable. 

One stat: 18-of-22 from the charity stripe

Before the game, Coach K specifically pointed out Duke’s inability to get to the foul line in previous games. On the three-game road trip, the opponents combined had 37 more attempts, resulting in a total advantage of 25 points from the free-throw line alone. It seems that the additional work put in to correct this discrepancy was fairly effective. 

Against the Yellow Jackets, the Blue Devils made deliberate efforts to attack the rim instead of settling for jump shots. The team only took 16 shots from beyond the arc, nearly eight shots less than the average number of attempts per game this season. On the flip side, more active off-ball movements in this game contributed to a significant rise in cut plays, constantly creating pressure in the opponent’s paint. Per Synergy, 16.7% of Duke’s play types against Georgia Tech came from cuts, a significant rise from the 7.4% season average.

Five different players took at least two shots from the line this game. DJ Steward led the bunch with a perfect six-of-six record, while Jalen Johnson’s crucial back to back three-point plays helped Duke preserve the razor-thin edge late in the game.

One player: Jordan Goldwire

Jordan Goldwire might be one of the smallest players on the floor, but he is arguably the toughest guy out there. The senior guard earned his spot in the rotation by being a pesky defender that gives his all whenever he plays. Tuesday night against a far more experienced Georgia Tech team, the one veteran Duke could count on delivered much more than what was asked of him. 

Goldwire made three significant plays in the final stretch of the game. With one minute to go and Duke up by only one point, Goldwire stripped the ball from opposing star Jose Alvarado, whom he marked the entire game, and quickly drew a foul on the other end. After calmly draining both shots, the 6-2 veteran grabbed an offensive board less than thirty seconds later that effectively stifled any hope of a comeback for the Yellow Jackets .

Even though we still had one Goldwire fastbreak error when he was brutally rejected by Khalid Moore right before half time, Tuesday night’s 11 points, seven assists, five rebounds, and two steals is undoubtedly among the best games the Norcross, Ga. native has ever played at Duke. 


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