ATLANTA Halfway through a stretch of four games in eight days, Duke looked fresh enough Tuesday night, turning in one of its better shooting nights in the 68-51 ACC mens basketball win at Georgia Tech.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski had stressed to his Blue Devils about focusing on each game individually otherwise, the temptation to look ahead to Thursday night at North Carolina and Saturdays rematch with No. 1 Syracuse might have allowed the Yellow Jackets the opportunity to deliver a stinging defeat.
You respect every game, Krzyzewski said. If youre only going to do well on a Saturday night show on Broadway, your show is not going to last very long. Youve got the Wednesday matinee, the Friday, the Thursday, you have to do your best.
The No. 5 Blue Devils (21-5, 10-3) showed no signs of fatigue from Saturdays emotional, come-from-behind win against Maryland, with seemingly all of their focus on the Yellow Jackets (13-13, 4-9). After finishing the game against the Terrapins with their worst shooting half, the Blue Devils opened Tuesday by making 58.6 percent of their attempts from the field (17 of 29) and 63.6 percent of their 3-point attempts (7-for-11).
The line changes, with five new Blue Devils taking the floor at once, were back, which was a strategy Krzyzewski first deployed after realizing his team was wearing down in losses to Notre Dame and Clemson.
We want to make sure that everyone on our team knows that theyre important, Krzyzewski said. You can get into playing seven or eight guys, and a kid might lose his confidence, think you dont have confidence in him, so we told them, after the Maryland game, just be ready.
And it kept us a little bit fresher.
Dukes starting five Rasheed Sulaimon, Tyler Thornton, Rodney Hood, Jabari Parker and Amile Jefferson raced to a 12-3 lead, forcing Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory to burn an early timeout. After the break, the second five Quinn Cook, Matt Jones, Andre Dawkins, Josh Hairston and Marshall Plumlee came in and let the Yellow Jackets on a 5-0 run.
Duke, though, didnt miss back-to-back shots until there were just 4 minutes, 39 seconds left in the first half, getting more than enough offense along the way to keep a healthy lead.
The Blue Devils shooting cooled significantly during the second half, but, thanks to a 50-30 advantage with 15:54left, the fact that Duke went nearly six minutes between field goals at one point didnt affect the result. The Yellow Jackets never closed the deficit to fewer than 12 points, even with Duke shooting 29.2 percent over the final 20 minutes.
Thats also a testament to Dukes defensive effort the Blue Devils held the Yellow Jackets to 39.1 percent shooting for the game, allowing 26 points in the paint, matching the total Duke scored at the other end. Georgia Tech center Daniel Miller who scored 14 points in the first meeting of the teams was held to just two points on 1-of-4 shooting as Dukes defenders managed to keep him from receiving many touches. The Blue Devils pressure on the perimeter helped, too.
Part of playing post defense, a lot of times, is what you do on the perimeter, Krzyzewski said. Its what made Jay Bilas a starter for us. He had (Tommy) Amaker, (David) Henderson and (Johnny) Dawkins playing defense out there, so he was never exposed inside.
Parker recorded his ninth double-double with 16 points (with 6-of-12 shooting) and 14 rebounds. Hood also added 14 points, shooting 4-for-6 from behind the arc.
Now the Blue Devils can turn their focus to UNC, as the game that was postponed by snow last Wednesday is to be played at 9 p.m. Thursday.
Were looking at every one of our games as a must-win, Sulaimon said. Were playing angry each and every game, and no matter who we play, were going to play the same and prepare the same way.