Duke Basketball
Duke Basketball returned to the court for the first time since Dec. 22, as they gutted out a 69-57 win over Georgia Tech. (Photo by Gerry Broome/AP Photo)

Blue Review: A 2021-22 Duke Basketball Recap – Game 13 Georgia Tech

Duke Basketball returned to the court for the first time since Dec. 22 and it certainly looked like it. Last week’s COVID pause was a sad way to end 2021 and ring in the new year, but a win to start 2022 is all Coach K and company could have asked for. It wasn’t pretty, yet Duke trumped Georgia Tech 69-57 to improve to 2-0 in ACC play and 12-1 on the season. Much like if you came into contact with Medusa, make sure you evert your eyes from the box score of Tuesday’s game. Knowing that, let’s get into some takeaways.

Duke finally won the battle on the boards

Coach K’s message to Mark Williams regarding rebounding was harped on throughout the broadcast – and that speech clearly ignited a fire under the 7-foot center as he recorded a double-double with 10 points and 14 boards. The sophomore has been pushed around on the glass for much of the season and as Duke was outrebounded against the likes of Appalachian State and South Carolina State, this is a step in the right direction.

Paolo Banchero also earned his keep on the glass. The freshman star was the second Blue Devil to notch a double-double with a team-high 17 points and 11 rebounds. The 6-10 projected lottery pick has the size and strength to dominate the glass, but that willingness and hunger seemed to have been missing from he and Williams. It was evident tonight, as the Blue Devils hauled in 48 rebounds and 14 on the offensive glass – an impressive display given the circumstances.

Wendell Moore struggles to find groove offensively

This is the first time I’ve had to say this so far in the 2021-22 season, but Wendell Moore struggled offensively tonight. The junior came into the game averaging 17.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists on 58.6% shooting from the field. It wasn’t until the 10:34 mark in the second half that Moore made his first FG attempt (an uncontested 3-pointer). He had eight points on 2-for-11 shooting from the field, 3-for-5 from the charity stripe with two rebounds and two assists.

All that to be said, Moore was phenomenal defensively. Up until about midway through the second half, the 6-foot-5 wing was hounding ACC leading scorer Michael Devoe – the latter was held to three points in the first half. Where a season ago Moore would’ve been relegated to the bench, he showed the mental fortitude and resolve to give much-needed effort defensively. I’m hopeful that the COVID pause doesn’t hamper the incredible first 12 games Moore had, but that remains to be seen.

Blue Devil defense stars as offense stalls

Let’s just run some numbers really quick. The Blue Devils shot 19-for-51 from the field (37.3%), 5-for-16 from 3-point range (31.3%) and 26-for-40 from the free throw line (65%). For starters, the last of those stats both triggers me and provides some sense of optimism. On the one hand, Duke got to the charity stripe a bunch and that’s good. On the other hand, they missed 14 free throws. I do recognize that this team had one practice together before playing Tuesday night. Not touching a basketball for the better part of a week and a half will undoubtedly alter your rhythm. Still, though, for a team that shoots 76% from the line, this was not a good night. And yet I can take all of this with a grain of salt because the Blue Devil defense was fantastic.

This is one small sample from a great performance, as Duke’s guards and wings forced Georgia Tech, especially Devoe, into some absolutely terrible shots. On this possession alone we see Joey Baker fight through a ball screen, Theo John hedge and recover to his man, all the while Baker stays with Devoe and the other three Blue Devils blanket their men on the perimeter. Defensive possessions like these will make what would’ve been an ugly film room a little more comfortable later in the week. Eye test aside, Duke held the Yellow Jackets to 32.8% shooting from the field and 30% from beyond the arc. It was a great display as the Blue Devils look for a complete performance on both sides of the ball as ACC play continues.


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