From The Stands: Duke v. Ga Tech

Around this time of year the focus begins to shift away from how you win and concentrates more on the results. That was certainly the case Wednesday as Duke's offense took a 180 degree turn from their victory over Wake Forest, leaving the Blue Devils to shoot less than 35% from the field. However, the team still found a way to win ugly in Atlanta. <I>TDD</I> examines the game and offers our opinions.

What Went Right:

- While this team is often accused of not having the kind of "go-to" player of years past, junior J.J. Redick is certainly doing all he can to audition for that distinction. After carrying Duke with a career best 38 against Wake Forest, Redick scored a game high 21 points, and kept Duke in the game in the first half when no one else was able to score. After starting the second half with a long three, Redick's jumper left him, but he still managed to play strong defense (4 steals) and helped Duke get Shelden Williams involved in the offense on his way to a team high four assists.

- With Redick slowing down late in the game, Duke got an unexpected, but much needed lift from fellow junior Lee Melchionni. After firing up a couple of airballs midway through the second half, Melchionni calmly knocked down a pair of threes with under four minutes remaining to turn a tie ball game into a comfortable situation for the Blue Devils. While everyone in the building was expecting the ball to go to either Redick or Williams, it was Melchionni who stepped up late.

- After being killed on the boards in their last two contests, Duke out-rebounded Georgia Tech 39-37, and pulled down 15 offensive rebounds, which resulted in 13 second chance points. Considering Duke had little success shooting the basketball, those point blank looks on put backs proved to be crucial.

- Though it may be cliché to say, Duke proved that they could win ugly if necessary. Wednesday's game had no kind of pace to it, largely because neither team could throw it in the ocean for much of the night. Still, Duke played strong defense and hung around before finally converting down the stretch. There was no panic, and despite some clearly visible fatigue from Redick, Coach K's team made the plays they needed to. That will count for something in March.

- With the team obviously worn down from the Wake Forest game, Coach K went to a slow down offense, holding the ball until 10 seconds remained on the shot clock before going towards the basket. This strategy hasn't always been successful with this group, but improved discipline on the offensive end, and it proved to be a useful strategy this time around in that it saved what little Duke had in the tank for the stretch run, and it took the crowd right out of the game each time Tech made a run.

- After allowing Tech to shoot nearly 58% in the first half, the Devils turned up the defensive pressure and challenged every attempt the Jackets took in the second half, holding them to a paltry 9-of-31 shooting after intermission. Duke also forced 19 turnovers on the night.

- With some upperclassmen missing some crucial free throws down the stretch, a pair of big rebounds by Shelden Williams and then DeMarcus Nelson on the offensive end kept Duke in the lead and finally sent Redick and then Nelson to the line. Of course Redick converted his two attempts, but it was Nelson's free throw that put the game out of reach for good. A lot of pressure on a freshman, and yet DeMarcus came through.

- Heading into halftime, Shelden Williams wasn't playing well. In fact the big man was shooting just 1-of-7 from the field and had just three rebounds. Krzyzewski didn't start him after intermission, and the message was apparently received loud and clear. After halftime Williams shot a perfect 5-for-5 and pulled in seven rebounds, including several clutch boards down the stretch. When Duke looked inside, he had his way with Luke Schenscher on both ends of the floor.

What Went Wrong:

- When Redick got cold there was a stretch where Duke looked lost on the offensive end. It was almost if no one wanted to step up and take a shot. While the Blue Devils certainly rely on Redick to put points on the board, someone is going to have to step up and help him shoulder the responsibility as fatigue hit him hard last night.

- Though he played very well in spurts, Daniel Ewing's third technical foul of the season really hurt his team. Yes he was clearly fouled on the dunk attempt, but the subsequent woofing earned him a technical which loomed large early in the second half when he went to the bench with a fourth foul instead of a third that would have allowed him to stay on the floor and kept Redick from being asked to do even more. As such an integral part to Duke's success this year, and a captain, Ewing has to keep his emotions in check no matter the circumstance as his team cannot be successful if he's an assistant coach.

- This game ended up being in doubt until the final minutes because Duke missed some key free throws down the stretch, including missing three of four attempts when Duke was up by two with less than 30 seconds remaining. Had a couple of big offensive rebounds not been pulled down, the game may have ended up very differently. On the night Duke shot 13-of-22 from the line (59%) and just 3-of-8 in the second half (1-of-5 if you discount Redick).

- Taking care of the basketball was an issue against as was dealing with fullcourt pressure. Duke coughed it up 19 times on the night, including several turnovers when Tech decided to press. This is the second game in a row where Duke struggled with the press, and will be a cause for concern as March rolls around.

Player of the Game:

For the second time this season, TDD awards two players with the player of the game honors. While Redick's performance was one of the more gutsy nights of his career, the second half play of Shelden Williams kept Duke in the lead as he simply over powered a bigger opponent on both ends of the floor. Williams scored inside and blocked a number of shots on the other end. For that the duo earns POG honors.

Next Play:

Duke heads to MSG for the annual out of conference tilt with St. John's. The Red Storm has been up and down this season, but has proven capable of beating top 25 teams with wins over a pair of ranked opponents this season. However, SJU has won just one of its last seven games and just three of their last 14. Still the potential for an upset is there and the Johnnies will likely be looking to salvage their season with a victory over Duke.

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