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Five observations from Duke men's basketball's first half against Georgia Tech

<p>Big man Mark Williams got off to a hot start, grabbing nine rebounds in the opening half against Georgia Tech.&nbsp;</p>

Big man Mark Williams got off to a hot start, grabbing nine rebounds in the opening half against Georgia Tech. 

It’s been a while, but Duke is back in action after having to postpone its last two games due to the University’s health and safety protocols. The Blue Devils hosted Georgia Tech in Cameron Indoor Stadium and after the first 20 minutes, Duke jumped out late to a 35-23 lead. Here’s five of our takeaways.

Rattling off the rust

After a bout of COVID-19 within the program, the Blue Devils haven’t played since their ACC opener against Virginia Tech Dec. 22. As a result, the first few minutes of the game were frantic and a little sloppy, with Duke shooting only 25% from the field during the first five minutes. Fortunately for the Blue Devils, Georgia Tech seemed equally as flustered to be in a loud Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Michael is missing

ACC leading scorer Michael Devoe was largely shut down in the first half, only scoring three points off of five attempts. Devoe averages 21.2 points per game, a stat that will certainly take a hit after this game. Wendell Moore Jr. has been practically glued to Devoe’s hip, not letting him take anywhere near as many shots as he typically does. Moore, as well as the entire Duke roster, played extremely clean during the first half, fouling just six times. 

Yellow Jackets are swarming

The Yellow Jackets have been able to put a wrinkle in Duke’s offense in the first half with their effective zone defense. While the Blue Devils normally shoot 49.4% from the field, Georgia Tech has held them to just 31%. Georgia Tech has been all over the Devils, with 13 fouls in the first half, getting Duke into the bonus early on. The Blue Devils have had trouble getting the ball past Georgia Tech’s big men at the post, but have made up for that elsewhere on the court. Despite the tough defense, the Blue Devils have taken care of the basketball so far, only turning the ball over three times. 

Crazies continue

With in-person classes postponed until Jan. 18 for both undergraduate and graduate students, the inner bowl of Cameron Indoor Stadium is the least filled it has been so far this season. Despite that, the Cameron Crazies are as relentless as normal. The Crazies seem to be working their magic as the sixth man for the Blue Devils as the Yellow Jackets have really struggled from the field. 

Player of the half: Mark Williams

While scoring has been spread pretty evenly across the roster, Mark Williams has nine rebounds alone. The difference-maker for the Devils is currently their strength on boards, which has been led largely by Williams. Additionally, the 7-foot sophomore backdoored the Yellow Jackets zone defense on lobs twice early in the half to get his first four points of the game on the scoreboard. Williams also completely shut down Georgia Tech’s Jordan Usher as he came up for a dunk late in the half, leaving him sprawled out on the floor as Duke pushed the ball back up the court.

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