Tech’s basketball team was victimized by early foul trouble, and No. 10 Duke took advantage as the No. 21 Jackets dropped Thursday’s contest against the Blue Devils 86-67 at Durham, N.C. The loss was Tech’s second against a ranked opponent this year; the Jackets are now 3-2 against ranked teams.
It was the second meeting of the season between the teams. Tech upset then-No. 5 Duke 71-67 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum on Jan. 9, but the Jackets were unable to secure what would have been their second victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium since 1996.
“I was sure we were ready. We spent more time preparing for them than we did for anybody this year, [but] obviously it didn’t do any good,” Head Coach Paul Hewitt said.
Forward Kyle Singler led the way for the Blue Devils. Singler scored 30 points and shot 8-for-10 from three-point range after hitting just two of 13 attempts from beyond the arc in Atlanta.
Singler’s success was partly due to a new motion offense that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski installed prior to the game.
“There is no play…it is not predictable movement,” Krzyzewski said. “[Singler] finally had a great night shooting…and I think that motion [offense] gets him a lot more open shots.”
Duke guards Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith added 21 and 14 points, respectively. Singler, Scheyer and Smith each spent 37 or more minutes on the court.
Senior forward Zachery Peacock was the leading scorer for the Jackets; his 11 points were also the first 11 points of the game for Tech. Freshman guard Glen Rice Jr. added 10 points and four rebounds as the Jackets’ bench players scored 39 points, compared to 13 for Duke’s reserves.
The Jackets were forced to tap into their bench early and often, as both starting forwards—junior Gani Lawal and freshman Derrick Favors—got into foul trouble quickly.
Lawal picked up his second foul just 33 seconds into the game, and Favors received his third foul with 13:04 left in the first half.
Tech led 17-14 at that point, but a 9-2 Duke run put the Blue Devils ahead 23-19. With Lawal and Favors sitting frequently and Peacock and redshirt senior center Brad Sheehan seeing most of the frontcourt minutes for Tech, Duke out-rebounded the Jackets 27-15 in the opening half.
“[Duke] got 12 offensive rebounds in the first half. If those other two guys [Lawal and Favors] are in there, I don’t think they get that many,” Hewitt said.
Duke gradually expanded its lead on the strength of free throws and three-pointers.
A trey by Singler as time expired gave Duke a 45-33 lead going into halftime; it was the first double-digit lead of the game.
The game remained roughly even as the second half began, but a 10-2 Duke run gave the Blue Devils a 20-point lead at 63-43 with 11:30 to go. The Jackets never threatened the rest of the way as Duke rolled to the victory.
The Jackets had a better field goal percentage, hitting 49 percent from the field, but struggled from the free throw line. Tech’s 57.1 percent success rate from the line prevented them from taking advantage of a day when the Blue Devils shot 66.7 percent on free throws, well below their season average of 75.7 percent.
“The lady from ESPN asked me before the game, `How will you know if you’re in the game or in trouble?’ And I said, `Look at our free throw shooting.’ In the games that we’ve won or lost, there’s a big difference [in free throw percentages],” Hewitt said.
Just as big of a story, though, was the three-point shooting for each team. Duke hit 66.7 percent from beyond the arc while Tech shot just 25 percent on threes.
It was a disappointing loss for the Jackets, who kept the game close early but could not hang on.
“We felt like if we could have had it to single digits going into halftime, we thought our pressure was wearing them down, that we’d have a chance. But we didn’t do what we had to do…I’m very disappointed in our effort,” Hewitt said.