Duke’s New Starting Lineup Pays DividendsPosted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 8th, 2014
Tuesday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Mike Krzyzewski gave another chance to a starting lineup that had started four consecutive games back in November. Amile Jefferson and Rasheed Sulaimon replaced Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton, playing well enough to earn a combined 64 minutes in Duke’s 79-57 win over Georgia Tech. After an evenly played first half, Rodney Hood’s second straight 27-point game and the Blue Devils’ energy level rolled past a Yellow Jackets team trying to adjust to playing without Robert Carter, Jr., in the wake of his meniscus injury.
The last Duke game featuring sophomores Jefferson and Sulaimon as starters turned out to be the worst defensive Duke performance in at least a dozen years, a narrow 91-90 home win over Vermont in the sixth game of the season. After that contest, in an effort to establish a tougher defensive identity, Mike Krzyzewski inserted seniors Hairston and Thornton into the starting lineup. The Blue Devils made measurable progress defensively after the change, but for Duke to reach its full potential as a team this season, the more talented sophomores will need to be on the court more than the solid but offensively limited role players.
Led by Marcus Georges-Hunt (18 points) and Daniel Miller (14/8), Georgia Tech fought well for 20 minutes but could not keep pace with the Devils after the intermission. The main problem for the Yellow Jackets was their discrepancy at the free throw line. Although the overall fouls called were fairly even (17 committed by Georgia Tech; 14 by Duke), the Blue Devils held a huge edge from the charity stripe. Duke took 25 free throws and made 22 compared to the big doughnut put up by the Jackets, missing all six of their rare trips to the free throw line.
Here are some other takeaways for each team after their second game of ACC play.
Takeaways for Duke (12-3 , 1-1 ACC). Jabari Parker had another subpar offensive performance with 12 points (4-of-12 FG) that included only seven second half minutes. Part of his bench time was due to foul trouble, but part was also due to how well the other Blue Devils were playing without him. One of those players was Jefferson, who grabbed a game high 10 rebounds, including seven in the second stanza. Sulaimon also played well in his return to the starting lineup, chipping in 11 points and five rebounds. Hood was on fire down the stretch, hitting all five of his three-point attempts in the second half. Perhaps the sophomore captain’s recent points surge will help take some pressure off Parker going forward. Finally, it’s noteworthy that Andre Dawkins had an off shooting night (1-of-5 on threes), but unlike in previous years, he did some other things to help his team win. Dawkins attacked off the dribble, earning three trips to the foul line (5-of-6) and grabbed three defensive rebounds.
Takeaways for Georgia Tech (9-6 , 0-2 ACC). Before the injury to Carter, Georgia Tech had a nice three-man post rotation of Miller, Carter and Kammeon Holsey. But Tuesday night showed why Carter’s loss is about more than just points and rebounds. In the first half, the Jackets were able to attack Duke inside to the tune of a 20-14 edge in points in the paint, led by Miller’s eight points (4-of-4 FG). In the second half, head coach Brian Gregory was forced to go to a small lineup when Holsey was in foul trouble. Of course, Duke was more than willing to go small itself, using its athletic perimeter players to drive and kick for open threes – making 7-of-12 in the second half. Georges-Hunt had a good shooting night (8-of-12) and Trae Golden played like a veteran, committing only one turnover. But the Jackets need more perimeter help. The Poole brothers, Stacey Jr. and Solomon, were totally ineffective, combining for zero points and five turnovers.
- “It’s unfortunate that our game, men’s college basketball puts so much on young extremely talented freshmen. They are promoted and marketed way more than they should be.” – Mike Krzyzewski, responding to a question about Jabari Parker and unfair expectations placed on him.
- “Every decision is so important when you play a team like Duke. They make you [make good decisions] for 40 minutes” – Brian Gregory discussing Georgia Tech’s challenge in playing Duke in Cameron.
- “We outrebounded them [Georgia Tech] by eight and they have outrebounded everybody they play.” – Krzyzewski on keys to Duke’s win.
- “Daniel Miller is as good as any center in the league. He helps in every aspect of the game.” Gregory on his senior big man.