Photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com
Andre Dawkins ushers in the ACC season against Georgia Tech at Cameron Indoor Stadium
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM – It was a one point game at halftime of the Duke-Georgia Tech men’s basketball game, which the 16th-ranked Blue Devils would end up winning, 79-57, on what meteorologists were calling the coldest day since the 1990’s—back when Georgia Tech used to beat Duke from time to time, the ACC had nothing to do with Indiana, New York and Pennsylvania, and the only one-and-done college players were the guys who got expelled or flunked out.
“I don’t know if the weather, the start of school,” said Coach Mike Krzyzewski after the game, searching for an explanation. “We seemed dead.” Or as one fan in the Cameron Indoor Stadium concession line at halftime put it: “If they keep playing like that, I’m turning in my season tickets.”
It didn’t last.
Duke opened the second half with a 10-2 run, then poured it on the last seven minutes, after watching freshman star Jabari Parker pick up his fourth foul and leave for the remainder of the game. This time, they didn’t need him. Rasheed Sulaimon and Rodney Hood, the two Blue Devil slashers who so far this season had not found ways to use their scoring powers effectively together on the floor, torched Georgia Tech with the pick and pop from the left side, leading to four Hood three-pointers, part of his 27-point night. Amile Jefferson continued his ownership of the boards, grabbing ten, as Duke became the first team to outrebound Georgia Tech this season.
It was a game that everyone expected Duke to win, handily, just as expectations were high for Parker to bounce back hard from his subpar, 7-point, 4-rebound game against Notre Dame last Saturday, which Duke lost, 79-77. He finished this one with 12 points on 4-12 shooting, along with two turnovers, the four fouls, and one shot that got blocked so badly his head bounced on the floor. “People ask me, ‘What’s wrong with Parker?’” said Krzyzewski. “What’s wrong with him? He’s played great this year. He didn’t play well in the last game, he played pretty well tonight, a little bit better. It’s a long season.”
“In some respects,” Krzyzewski added of Parker, “he’s a little bit out of position because if I had a bigger team, I’d be playing him on the wing, which is probably eventually what he’s going to do.”
It was true that Georgia Tech’s lone big man, the stolid, 6-foot-11 inch redshirt senior Daniel Miller, gave Parker and the rest of the Blue Devils problems inside, scoring 14 points and shooting 64 percent, with relative ease. The biggest difference of the game came at the free throw line, where Duke shot 22 for 25 and the Yellow Jackets missed all their foul shots, which totaled six. “No comment,” said Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory on the subject.
Outside, after the game, it was still as cold as the 1990s, when Georgia Tech’s Dennis Scott used to jaw with the rowdy Cameron crowd, sinking half-court shots in warmups and eating the Twinkies that fans threw at him to mock his weight. Scott would go on to have a 10-year career in the NBA, but his time in college seemed joyful, playful and full of fun. Being a college star today is different. “Wiggins, Randle and Parker—they’re 18, 19, years old,” said Krzyzewski of Duke's young star and his freshman counterparts at Kansas and Kentucky. “They’ve been promoted and marketed as way beyond what they should be. But that’s the way it is.”