Duke Basketball: Blue Devils Get Back On Track in Atlanta

ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 11: Marques Bolden
ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 11: Marques Bolden /

Without star freshman Marvin Bagley, Duke held on to defeat Georgia Tech. The Blue Devils led by as many as 26 but the Yellow Jackets stormed back in the second half, cutting the lead to single digits. The Blue Devils’ next game is at home on Wednesday against Virginia Tech.

Without the best player in the nation in Marvin Bagley, Duke got off to a hot start. Grayson Allen found his shot, the bench was giving good minutes and defense was in the cards for the first time in a long time for this team. It actually looked like this was the first game where the Blue Devils looked like an actual team, not a collection of five-star talent with the same uniforms.

Everything was fine and dandy for the first half but people often forget that college basketball has two halves and not one.

The second half was the complete opposite. The Blue Devils were sloppy, lacked energy and for a good while didn’t look like they wanted any part of playing a basketball game. It’s been the issue for the entire season. Duke had the opportunity to stomp on the throats of Georgia Tech, who was undermanned and is simply not as talented as Duke is, but couldn’t seize the opportunity. Georgia Tech kept clawing their way back into the game, erasing a 26 point second half deficit and cutting the Duke lead to 12 with 7:01 left in the game.

The talent discrepancy between the two teams was the biggest factor in Duke ultimately holding on for the win. There points where a couple of drops of sweat popped out of my head but you could tell that this Georgia Tech team just didn’t have the guys to come all the way back and win.

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-Benching Trevon Duval was a good move by Coach K. Duke played very well without him and when he got in the game, looked like he was trying to make up for his time on the bench. He was trying to do too much. I don’t see this being a move that happens a ton the rest of the season.

Marques Bolden has had a resurgence these last two games. He had eight points on 4-4 shooting against North Carolina and went 4-7 for eight more points against Georgia Tech. The numbers aren’t eye-popping but his offensive game looks light years better than what it was earlier this season. His post moves look like NBA big man post moves. If Duke can get this production the rest of the season, Bagley and Wendell Carter should reap the benefits.

-Wendell Carter is a lot better when Bagley is on the floor. Georgia Tech made a concerted effort to double him when he got the ball and he didn’t handle it great. It’s not groundbreaking to say that he’s a lot better when the best player in the nation is on the floor alongside him but his game flourishes when he doesn’t have to be the focal point of the offense.

-Duke cannot survive if Marvin Bagley has to sit out anymore games. I know this was just a precautionary sitting but it needs to be said. When Georgia Tech was making their run and Duke needed a bucket, they looked lost. Bagley is the safety valve of the offense. When Duke needs a bucket, give it to Bagley and he’ll more often than not deliver for you. Without him, Duke’s offense struggled in the half court.

-Coach K needs to continue to mix different defenses in the same game. Against North Carolina, he went mainly 2-3 and UNC ate it alive. When he mixes in different defenses (remember the Miami comeback?), it forces the other team to think and adjust more than they’d like which in turn leads to chaos and turnovers. Defense is the issue with this team and switching it up a bunch mid game might be the key to masking that problem.