The Jackets travelled to Durham, N.C. for their second straight conference road game to take on the No. 16 Duke Blue Devils. Both Duke and Tech were coming off road losses from the weekend and, for the first time in seven years, Duke found themselves ranked outside the top ten. The Jackets had to bring their A game, playing in Cameron Indoor Stadium, where Duke has won 99 games in a row against unranked teams. Tech would be playing without sophomore big man Robert Carter Jr., who underwent a successful knee surgery on his torn meniscus, for the second straight game. Carter Jr. is the ACC’s leading rebounder and his presence on both sides of the ball was missed.
The Jackets brought their A game in the first half and had one of their best halves of the year. Duke got off to an early 12-6 lead but threes by senior Jason Morris and sophomore Chris Bolden tied the game at 12 with 12:15 left. The play of the half was Jason Morris’ thunderous dunk on Duke freshman phenom Jabari Parker to tie the game at 20. Tech kept it close throughout a first half that featured 9 lead changes and trailed only 34-33 at the break. Led by Marcus Georges-Hunt’s 11 points, Tech shot 53.6 percent from the floor while holding Duke to 36 percent. However, the free throw discrepancy haunted Tech the entire night. Tech had only attempted 2 free throws by halftime, while Duke was 12-14 from the free throw line, leaving many Jackets in foul trouble.
For Tech, the second half was a completely different story. From the start, Duke came out with a lot of intensity and capitalized on Tech’s early missed shots and turnovers to get off to a 9-2 run. Duke never looked back after gaining a double digit lead and was led by the shooting of sophomore Rodney Hood. Hood scored 27 points for the Devils, including 5-7 on three pointers. Daniel Miller and Georges-Hunt continued their good performances from the first half, but it was not enough—Tech fell to Duke 79-57. Miller finished the game with 14 points and 8 rebounds, while Georges-Hunt finished with 18 points on 8-12 shooting. The stat that stuck out for the Jackets was that Tech was 0-6 for the game from the free throw line while Duke was 22-25.
“You have to give [Duke] a lot of credit because I thought in the second half they played with great intensity and great energy,” said Coach Brian Gregory at a postgame press conference. “I told our guys that I like the team that I coached tonight a lot better than the one on Saturday. At the same time, we need to keep improving and keep getting better. I thought we did some good things and made progress especially with the involvement of this team with Robert [Carter Jr.] out. We did a lot better. Every decision is so important when you play a team like Duke on the road. They take advantage of every mistake you make and that’s something we need to improve on. Some good things to build on, but we’re not satisfied.”
In the second half, offensive play was an issue for Tech. The Jackets only scored 24 points in the second half and consistency from that end has been an issue for Tech all year.
“We need to be more aggressive in driving the ball to the basket. I thought at the end of the first half we had two possessions where we took two step-back shots. One, that’s a low-percentage shot. Two, you’re not winning on the road, [so] you have to be attacking all the time. You have to do that with poise and precision and good decisions. That’s the challenge. I think that’s why they’re good, because they challenge you for forty minutes to make good decisions,” Gregory said.
With the loss, the Jackets fall to 9-6 (0-2 ACC) on the year. Tech returns home for their first conference home game to take on 10-5 (1-1 ACC) Notre Dame tomorrow.