5 observations from No. 7 Duke men's basketball's first half against Georgia Tech

Jeremy Roach (3) puts up a jumper against Georgia Tech. He had a game-high 11 points in the first half.
Jeremy Roach (3) puts up a jumper against Georgia Tech. He had a game-high 11 points in the first half.

ATLANTA—On the heels of one tough road loss, No. 7 Duke is working hard to fend off another upset Saturday afternoon against Georgia Tech inside McCamish Pavilion. After the Yellow Jackets took the early lead, the Blue Devils brought themselves back into contention, entering the break down 35-31:

Lineup change

After sitting out Duke’s season-opening win Nov. 6 against Dartmouth, sophomore forward and returning starter Mark Mitchell has been featured in every Blue Devil starting five — until Saturday. Head coach Jon Scheyer replaced Mitchell with graduate center Ryan Young in the first reprisal of that opening-night lineup for the first ACC contest of the season.

Mitchell entered the game less than four minutes in, however, and did his part in reinvigorating the Blue Devil offense, hitting a deep two from the corner for the team’s first field goal since the opening possession. Overall, he posted four points after tallying season-lows of six points and three rebounds in 19 minutes Wednesday at Arkansas.

Proctor down

On just Duke’s second possession of the game, point guard Tyrese Proctor went down hard on a layup attempt that rolled off the rim and ricocheted out of bounds. The crowd quickly fell silent and Scheyer crossed the court to check on the standout sophomore, who was helped to the Blue Devil bench with an apparent leg injury by teammates Stanley Borden and Neal Begovich. 

After briefly exiting to the locker room, Proctor quickly returned to the bench but did not re-enter the game. Reserve guard Jaylen Blakes’ role was amplified in his absence, and freshman guard Caleb Foster stepped up in the backcourt with six points.

Jackets on fire 

While the Blue Devils got off to a slow start on the offensive end in the wake of Proctor’s injury, the Yellow Jackets seized control. The home side connected on four of its first five 3-point attempts, with two of those coming from junior guard Kowacie Reeves Jr. The fiery streak put Georgia Tech up 12-2 at the first stoppage as Duke went just under four minutes between its first bucket and its next. 

The Yellow Jackets did cool down considerably, going nearly 11 minutes without another three after the opening stretch, and are entering the break shooting 6-of-14 from beyond the arc. Duke remains behind in this department with a 2-of-10 mark of its own.

Foster’s spark

With the Duke offense struggling to launch in the early going, Foster provided a boost off of the bench. The Harrisburg, N.C., native entered for Proctor upon the latter’s injury and while remaining quiet for significant periods, ignited the critical final stretch with a personal 6-2 run to cut Georgia Tech’s lead to 21-18. Still, the Yellow Jackets kept the Blue Devils at bay with consistent ball movement and sporadic success from deep.

Player of the half: Jeremy Roach

It was a 3-pointer by Duke’s senior captain to break a long field-goal drought that truly began the visiting team’s offense Saturday afternoon. By the end of the half, he had collected a game-high 11 points as the clear motor of the Blue Devil offense. With Proctor sidelined, his play will be all the more important if Scheyer’s squad is to escape Atlanta without its second-straight loss. 

On the Georgia Tech side, freshman forward Baye Ndongo made the biggest impact. He tied top scorer Miles Kelly for the team lead with 10 points on an efficient 4-of-6 clip.

Jonathan Levitan

Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


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