After each Duke men's basketball game this season, check back here for the Player of the Game and more. Today, the Blue Zone takes a deeper look at Paolo Banchero's double-double and the rest of Duke's victorious return to play:
One player: Paolo Banchero
The prospective No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft proved himself worthy once again as the Blue Devils continued their upbeat conference slate Tuesday night by registering a win against Georgia Tech. In the team’s return to play after matches against Clemson and Notre Dame were postponed due to COVID-19, the Blue Devils immediately made an impact on the court, recording the contest’s first basket—a layup by none other than Paolo Banchero.
In pursuit of the victory, Banchero dropped his second career double-double and contributed the highest number of points, assists and steals on the floor for Duke with 17, four and two, respectively. The freshman forward continued his high-energy play all night and consistently got to the free-throw line throughout the game. When all was said and done, most of Banchero’s points for the Blue Devils came from free throws, proving that this Duke star is vibrant in his versatility on the court.
One word: Fouling
The Cameron Crazies shouting “see ya” following a Georgia Tech player's fifth foul twice this contest definitely raised some eyebrows. Duke’s match against the Yellow Jackets marked the first competition where an opposing player, let alone two, fouled out of a game against the Blue Devils since Gonzaga’s Julian Strawther registered five fouls on Black Friday. Along with the two players who fouled out—Khalid Moore and Kyle Sturdivant—Georgia Tech had five other athletes in foul trouble, handing the Blue Devils 40 attempts at the charity stripe. On the flip side, Duke kept its cool for the most part when it came to fouling, recording 14 team fouls to the Yellow Jackets’ 27 and giving its opponent only 12 attempts at the line.
A clear look at the stats shows that Duke's 26 made free throws off of Georgia Tech's mistakes were the key to triumph. The Blue Devils scored less both beyond and inside the arc and needed that X-factor to come out on top in this match. It is important to recognize here that Georgia Tech has repeatedly made this mistake all season, whereas Duke has not. The Yellow Jackets have combined for a whopping 240 personal fouls registered this season to their opponents’ much more meager 199. The Blue Devils themselves have recorded only 178 this season, a means that has limited their opponents from having the opportunity to be efficient from the free-throw line and potentially turn the contest in their favor.
One stat: 26-of-40 from the free-throw line
If fouling was the name of the game, then efficiency and volume are the strategies to win it. The Blue Devils did just that on the hardwood against the Yellow Jackets, draining 26-of-40 shots from the charity stripe to contribute to their lead. The last time that Duke had this many baskets at the free-throw line was in the team's rout of the Citadel, in which it registered 27-of-29 en route to a 107-81 blowout win. The Blue Devils managed 36-of-74 from the floor and 8-of-30 from downtown against the Bulldogs. However, against Georgia Tech, Duke undoubtedly won the contest through the baskets garnered at the line. Only 43 of the Blue Devils' points came from the field compared to Georgia Tech's 48. But from the free-throw line, the Yellow Jackets managed only nine additional points on their 12 attempts. Banchero, Jeremy Roach and AJ Griffin dominated the stripe, taking 33 of the team's 40 attempts, and Banchero led the pack with 9-of-16 shooting at the line.
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Ana Young is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle’s 118th volume.