Previewing Georgia Tech

Mfon Udofia

The Yellow Jackets come into Cameron Indoor with a 10-5 overall record and 0-3 ACC mark. Georgia Tech has lost three straight, and will look to break the streak against a Duke team still trying to find an identity without Ryan Kelly.

Duke is adjusting to life without Ryan Kelly, and so far the results haven't been pleasant. In the last game out the Blue Devils dropped their first game of the season to NC State, which resulted in a fall from the top of the national rankings. The second game without Kelly will take place on Thursday against Georgia Tech.

Against the Yellow Jackets, it would appear as though Duke will a lesser opponent than the one who sent the Blue Devils packing in Raleigh. Georgia Tech sits at 10-5 overall and 0-3 in the ACC. Furthermore, Tech has struggled on the offensive end of the floor and ranks just 228th in points per game, and 221st overall in field goal percentage.

Still, at times, numbers and records can be deceiving as the Yellow Jackets have lost conference games to NC State in Raleigh, and against Miami. The Wolfpack and Hurricanes are considered two of the three best teams in the ACC.

Should Duke be able to hold serve at home, the Blue Devils will be rewarded with a rare in-season weekend off before heading to Miami and Maryland next week in what could be the toughest four day period of the regular season.

Quotable:

"You know, great challenge on Thursday, play against not only one of the best teams in our conference but one of the best teams in the country, and they have some guys playing at a very high level." — Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory.

"Now, you know, one thing is they are a different team without Ryan Kelly. There's no question about that. I'm sure you caught the comment that Mark Gottfried said during halftime; they replaced him with another all-American. But it's different, and not only what he brings, but he brings great experience to the team, and in this league, as good as the freshmen are, you have to rely on your upper classmen." - Coach Gregory

"Seth's injury was a slight sprain to his left ankle, and there wasn't a lot of swelling after the game, and yesterday it looked pretty good. He won't practice today, but unless something else happens, he'll be available for Thursday." - Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski

PREGAME NOTES

Series Notes: This will be the 89th time the Blue Devils and Yellow Jackets have met. Duke owns a 63-25 overall series advantage, and a 31-5 mark in games played in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils are 1-0 against Tech coach Brian Gregory, and own a four game overall win streak.

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski owns a 54-19 overall record against the Yellow Jackets. Coach K's team has won 28 of the previous 31 meetings.

Only four Tech players - seniors Mfon Udofia and Pierre Jordan and juniors Kammeon Holsey and Daniel Miller - have played at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Blue Devils battling injuries: After ascending to the top of the polls and defeating a number of highly ranked teams, the injury bug caught up to Duke recently. The Blue Devils were without starting big forward Ryan Kelly for the entire game against NC State, and lost Seth Curry for the final several minutes with a left ankle injury. The loss of two-thirds of the senior class was too much to overcome as the Blue Devils dropped their first game of the year.

Moving forward, Duke is not expecting Kelly to return before the middle of February, but Curry is expected to play again on Thursday night according Coach K. In Kelly's absence, the Blue Devils are expected to start junior forward Josh Hairston, with freshman Amile Jefferson logging extended minutes off the bench. Jefferson's play drew rave reviews against NC State, but the freshman was limited to just 12 minutes because of fouls.

Inexperienced Jackets face big test: The Yellow Jackets enter Thursday's game on a three game losing streak, as face one of the toughest tests of the year in Duke. According to Ken Pomeroy's ratings, the Yellow Jackets have not beaten anyone better than 54th rated St. Mary's (65-56 on Nov 25). In fact of the nine other wins, there's nobody in the top 100. The five losses have come to NC State, California, Illinois, Miami, and Virginia Tech (OT). That's the No. 30, 70, 48, 18, and 145th ranked teams per kenpom.com

Against the top 25, the Jackets are 0-2 with a 13 point loss to Illinois and NC State, respectively. With a team starting two freshmen, it's been important for Gregory to keep his young team in friendly confines early on, which accounts for Georgia Tech playing just two true road games over the first 15 contests. Those two games were the losses to Illinois and NC State.

Defense ahead of offense: Though the quality victory total isn't there yet, head coach Brian Gregory has installed a system that will likely mirror his successes at Dayton down the road. The Yellow Jackets don't rank in the top 225 teams when looking at points per game, or even in the top 220 when thinking about field goal shooting. However, the program is certainly taking care of business at the defensive end of the floor.

In more than two years since he took over, just four opponents have shot better than 50 percent against Tech, while the Yellow Jackets have held half of their opponents under 40 percent shooting, and another six under 30 percent. Since Gregory took over, the Yellow Jackets have held five ACC opponents under 60 points. A season ago, Duke was one of only eight teams in two years to best 70 points against the Yellow Jackets since Gregory got the gig.

This season Georgia Tech ranks 17th in the nation with a scoring defense of 57.1 and 13th in field goal percentage defense at 37.1 percent. The in your face defense is being played while not fouling as well. The team ranks in the top 70 in fouls per game at just 16.0 per night.

The caveat, of course, is the strength of schedule to date, which ranks well above 300 per Pomeroy.

Roster additions for Tech: Following the Fall semester, Gregory's team got a shot in the arm when Solomon Poole graduated early and enrolled at Tech. The former four star recruit finished his high school courses and graduated from North Florida Educational Insti- tute and was admitted to Tech in early December. He began to practice with the Yellow Jackets on Dec. 15, and made his debut Dec. 17 against Alabama State. In six games he is averaging just under seven minutes per game.

Solomon's older brother, Stacy, transferred in from Kentucky last year after the first semester and became eligible after the Fall. A former four star small forward, Stacy is averaging just over 10 minutes per game and is scoring 2.8 points per night while adding 2.7 rebounds.

Talent young big: The man in the middle for Georgia Tech was one of the highest rated centers in the class of 2012. Robert Carter picked the Yellow Jackets over a slew of high major offers including Florida, Maryland, Florida State, North Carolina, and others. From the second he arrived in Atlanta, Carter won the starting center position, and has responded by posting 10.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per night in 29 minutes of action. As he's adjusted to the college game, Carter has been more and more efficient. Over the last eight contests he's averaging 12.4 points and 7.4 rebounds, while shooting better than 50 percent from the floor.

Against NC State, Carter posted 12 points and seven rebounds before fouling out after 31 minutes.

Senior leader banged up: The team continues to get solid point guard play from senior Mfon Udofia. Gregory noted in the pre-game press conference that Udofia is playing the best basketball of his career at this point, and the numbers back that up. Over the last 10 games he's shooting 46.3 percent overall and 41 percent from the perimeter while also maintaining a 32-17 assist to turnover margin. During his first three season, Udofia shot just 37 percent tom the field and 30.7 percent from the perimeter. This year those totals are 48 percent overall and 38 percent from the perimeter.

Much like Duke with Seth Curry, however, Georgia Tech is dealing with some wear and tear issues with their senior sharp shooter.

"He got banged up in the Illinois game on our way back from our trip in California," said Gregory. "I still don't think he's 100 percent. I think the ankle is still -- there's no problems with it and he can play, but he just is lacking a little bit of maybe the explosiveness that he had early."

NUMBERS GAME
courtesy of Duke Sports Information

  • Duke, ranked No. 3 in the latest AP Poll, has been ranked in the top 10 of the poll 104 consecutive weeks. The last time Duke was not ranked in the top 10 was Nov. 19, 2007. Duke is playing its 193rd straight game as a top-10 team in the AP poll. Duke is 161-31 in that span.
  • Duke landed in the No. 1 spot in the first edition of the NCAA's Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). Duke is one of only two teams in the country to be ranked in the top five in the AP Poll (No. 3), Coaches Poll (No. 3), NCAA RPI (No. 1) and Strength of Schedule index (No. 2). Duke is the only team in the top three on all four lists.
  • Duke is 14-1 since the 2009-10 season following a loss.
  • The Blue Devils are averaging just 9.0 made free throws per game and have not made more than 11 free throws in a game in ACC play. In non-conference play, Duke made 17.8 free throws per contest with 20 or more made free throws in seven contests.
  • Quinn Cook ranks second in the ACC in assists at 6.2 apg. Bobby Hurley (1990-93), Dick Groat (1952), Jason Williams (2000-01), Chris Duhon (2003-04) and Quin Snyder (1989) are the only other Blue Devils to average over 6.0 assists per game in a season.
  • Mason Plumlee has led the Blue Devils in rebounding in 14 straight games and in 15 of Duke's 16 games this season. He leads the ACC in both double-doubles (10) and double-figure rebounding games (11).
  • Duke has dominated the ACC regular season since 1997, logging a 206-53 record during that span which is 34 more wins than the next closest school.

Projected Starters:
00 Mfon Udofia (6-2, 195, Sr.) - 10.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg
23 Brandon Reed (6-4, 185, R-Jr.) - 5.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg
04 Robert Carter (6-8, 245, Fr.) - 10.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg
05 Daniel Miller (6-11, 260, R-Jr.) - 7.3 ppg, 6.5 apg
03 Marcus George-Hunt (6-5, 220, Fr.) - 10.9 ppg, 4.4 apg

Top Reserves
24 Kammeon Holsey (6-9, 230, R-Jr.) - 9.0 ppg 4.5 rpg
14 Jason Morris (6-6, 225, Jr.) - 5.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg
12 Stacy Poole, Jr (6-5, 186, So.) - 2.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg

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