Men’s basketball gives Duke a fight

Photo by Tuna Ergan Student Publications

Masses of students snaked across campus, camping out in lawn chairs and eagerly awaiting the door opening on Wednesday, Jan. 8th for the match up against No. 2 Duke. Before player warmups even concluded, the colosseum was packed with a solid mix of Blue Devil blue and Yellow Jacket white and gold, making it the 20th sellout in the seven year history of Tech’s very own McCamish Pavilion. 

The game tipped off with a lot of energy from the Jackets, putting the men at a 14-6 lead within the first four minutes. Unfortunately, the momentum shifted as Duke capitalized on the Jackets’ loose defense to pull the Blue Devils ahead to an 11-point lead at halftime, with a score of 29-40. 

McCamish erupted with excitement as the teams returned for another half. Fans saw notable attendees at the ACC game including seven-time NBA star Grant Hill, Atlanta rapper Playboi Carti, former Falcons wide receiver Roddy White and current Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson. Players, alumni, students and fans were ready to battle for the win. 

While the Blue Devils came out cold to start, the Jackets happened upon a hot streak while gaining momentum from behind by scoring nine out of the first eleven points of the second half. According to Duke’s Head Coach, Mike Krzyzewski, “In the second half, [Tech] came out and we gave them nine quick points and it looked like the whole thing was going to turn.” Sure enough, a transition three pointer by sophomore guard Michael Devoe brought Tech to a triumphant 51-50 lead. 

This half saw four score ties and four lead changes as both teams strived to pull ahead. A foul by Devoe let Duke even the score to a 53-53 tie. Craving any headway, senior forward/center James Banks III dunked to score a 55-53 lead, but Duke responded with another alley-oop by freshman guard Cassius Stanley for a second 55-55 tie. Solid free throws by junior guard Jose Alvarado brought the Jackets to their third tie, and then another lead, 59-58, against the Blue Devils. The lead wavered back and forth for a final tie of 61-61 with a swisher from Devoe. 

The sweat, the enthusiasm and the excitement was exploding from the court and the stands as the unranked Jackets continued to surprise the crowd with an originally unprecedented assumption of such an unlevel playing field against the No. 2 nationally ranked team. 

In the final four minutes, Duke seemed to sustain a constant margin above the Jackets as, “They missed a lot of short shots right at the rim,” said Tech head coach Josh Pastner. A three pointer miss by Devoe with 2:47 left in the game sealed the deal for the Blue Devils. This was the turning point as the Jackets struggled to get back on their feet during another cold streak of missed buckets. After a long hard battle, Georgia Tech came up short with a final score of 64-73.

Even though the final score might not be the outcome Tech wanted, the team still has several key player and team moments from the game. 

For one, Banks scored his fourth double-double this season with 14 points and a career high of 15 rebounds. Banks also blocked seven Duke shots, establishing a record number of blocks for any player against Duke since 2016 to keep him as No. 2 in the ACC. Additionally, Tech’s buckets were led by another one of the four members of the double-double club during the game — Jose Alvarado — with 18 points and five assists. The Jackets snagged 17 turnovers to best Duke’s 14 in total. Coach Krzyzewski had some solid final words about the overall match up saying, “We beat a really good team in a very tough environment and both teams played really hard tonight. It’s a heck of a win for our kids.”  

This season, the men’s squad has coined themselves as the team that is #BuiltDifferent. Despite the final score of the 64-73 loss against Duke, the Jackets have definitely built themselves to battle hard and show up this season. As Coach Pastner said, “All you can ask for is a change to win the game, we had some chances …  our guys have always fought and competed.” 

With their third ACC road win in the bag against NC State (82-21), Chapel Hill (96-83) and most recently Boston College (71-52), Tech has a lot to offer in the weeks to come against the currently unranked Notre Dame, No. 18 Virginia and at No. 14 Louisville. 

But, with two out of three of the games at home, the Jackets are hoping to pack McCamish with the same exploding energy they had against Duke for some W’s to hopefully carry them through a challenging, on the road match up against Louisville.