DURHAM — Duke junior forward Kyle Singler released the shot and held his right wrist steady on the follow-through, savoring what was about to happen.
Sure enough, the shot swished through the net early in the second half for one of Singlers eight 3-pointers in 10th-ranked Dukes 86-67 defeat of No. 21 Georgia Tech on Thursday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Setting career highs for 3-pointers and points (he scored 30) would have felt good anytime for Singler. But doing it against the Yellow Jackets was especially sweet.
On Jan. 9, Singler shot 2-for-13 from the field in a 71-67 loss to Georgia Tech in Atlanta. A day after that game, Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said Singler had missed some open shots.
I thought Kyle had some great looks, he just didnt make them, Hewitt said Jan. 10. Lets put it this way, when we play them again at Cameron, if he has the same kind of looks, I dont think well be as lucky.
Being right never felt so bad.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski said some Duke tactical changes appeared to help Singler. During three days of practice leading up to the Georgia Tech game, the Blue Devils worked a lot on their motion offense.
Running motion instead of set plays gave Singler a chance to move to the ball in an unpredictable fashion, catch the ball strong and then make plays on his own, Krzyzewski said.
Then whatever his talents are should take over, Krzyzewski said. And he took over. Thats not coaching. Thats him. I thought he was moving better. He was open a lot because its not predictable movement.
Singlers 9-for-17 effort marked the first time he made at least half of his field goal attempts in six games. He entered the game shooting just 40.7 percent from the field and 33 percent from behind the 3-point arc, significantly short of his percentages from his sophomore season.
The preseason ACC player of the year, he still was averaging 16.1 points and 7.2 rebounds before Thursday, but isnt a favorite even to make first-team All-ACC.
On Thursday night, you never would have known he has struggled. He shot 8-for-10 from 3-point range as Duke made 12 3-pointers as a team.
Singler smiled when asked if it felt especially good to shoot well against Georgia Tech after his struggles in Atlanta.
Of course, he said.
Jon Scheyer added 21 points as the Blue Devils overcame a miserable performance in an 89-77 loss Saturday at Georgetown. Duke (18-4, 6-2 ACC) moved a half-game ahead of Virginia (14-6, 5-2) into sole possession of first place in the ACC. Maryland needed a win in a 9 p.m. game at Florida State on Thursday night to tie Virginia for second place with a 5-2 ACC record. Duke took advantage of the first-half foul woes of Georgia Tech (16-6, 4-4) to build a 45-33 halftime lead after Singler made a 3-pointer with one second left in the half.
Center Gani Lawal, whod scored 21 points on 8-for-9 from the field against Duke in Atlanta, fouled twice in the opening 33 seconds and played just six minutes in the first half.
Forward Derrick Favors, the leading candidate for ACC rookie of the year, also played six first-half minutes after being called for his third foul with 6:55 elapsed.
With the way Singler was shooting, Georgia Tech couldnt afford to be without its two leading scorers for that length of time.
Today was the first night I really saw him in a great rhythm on the perimeter and it was fun to watch, said Duke guard Nolan Smith. Every time he shot the ball I was excited because I knew it was going in.