Jackets fall to Duke on the road in ACC matchup

Freshman forward Baye Ndongo goes up for a massive dunk on Duke freshman guard Caleb Foster (#1). The true freshman is averaging 12.7 pts and 8.9 rebounds on 59.8% shooting. // Photo by Tyler Parker Student Publications

In a high-octane ACC matchup, the 11th-ranked Duke Blue Devils narrowly edged out the Jackets, 84-79, at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday night.

With the win, the Blue Devils clinched their eighth consecutive victory. Tech, sitting at 8-8 overall and 1-4 in the ACC, displayed a resilient spirit despite their underdog status. Trailing 28-18 in the first half, the Jackets orchestrated a remarkable comeback, ending the half tied at 39 apiece. 

This surge was in spite of freshman Baye Ndongo’s limited play due to foul trouble. The Jackets’ impressive 52% shooting from the floor and 8-of-14 from three-point range were crucial in keeping them in the game.

The second half saw a different Tech, one that initially dominated while outscoring  Duke 14-2 and taking a 10-point lead. However, the Blue Devils, led by sophomore center Kyle Filipowski, clawed back into the game. The latter moments were decisive as Duke (13-3, 4-1 ACC) went on a 10-point run after trailing 69-66, a lead they maintained until the end.

For  Tech, junior guard Miles Kelly notched his second double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Freshman guard Naithan George and forward Baye Ndongo each added 16 points, showcasing the depth and potential of a young Jackets’ roster with plenty to prove. 

Their contributions were pivotal in Tech’s strong offensive showing, particularly in the second half, where they shot 57% from the field. On the Duke side, Filipowski’s career-high 30 points coupled with 13 rebounds were instrumental in the Blue Devils’ victory. His presence was a constant challenge for the Tech defense, and his performance underlined why he was named a preseason Associated Press All-American. Duke senior point guard Jeremy Roach contributed significantly with 17 points, despite battling a knee issue, and sophomore guard Tyrese Proctor added 16, demonstrating Duke’s depth and resilience in the face of injuries to their stars.

The game was a rollercoaster of emotions, featuring nine ties and 11 lead changes. Neither team led by more than 10 points, underscoring the closely fought nature of the contest. Duke’s ability to convert 14 turnovers into 15 points while committing a season-low four turnovers was critical in keeping the Jackets at bay. The Blue Devils’ decision to field a bigger lineup in the second half, with grad student center Ryan Young teaming up with Filipowski, proved to be a game-changer. Young’s 10 points after halftime, mostly in critical moments, helped Duke regain and maintain their lead in the game’s late stage.For Tech, the loss was their fifth straight, but the close nature of the game against a top-tier team like Duke is a positive sign. 

The Jackets’ ability to challenge a top-ranked team and Duke’s resilience in overcoming a ten-point deficit reflect the unpredictable and thrilling nature of college basketball. Tech’s performance, especially in the second half where it shot over 60%, showed that it could compete at the highest level. 

For Duke, the ability to stay composed under pressure and make critical plays in key moments was the difference. The Blue Devils’ depth and ability to adapt to different game situations makes them a formidable team. 

As the season progresses, both teams have lessons to take from this game. For Tech, it is  about closing out games and building on their strong performances. 

Tech now looks ahead to facing No. 21 Clemson at Littlejohn Coliseum on Tuesday, Jan. 16. This is another opportunity for the Jackets to show growth and resilience and bounce back against a ranked ACC opponent.