Preview & Prediction: By Raphielle Johnson
Just a few days after surviving a poor offensive showing in their win at Florida State, #2 Duke (14-1, 2-0 ACC) hits the road again on Wednesday night. Georgia Tech (9-6, 0-2) is the upstart looking for the upset, but they’re a team that’s been inconsistent for much of the season. Part of that can be attributed to their youth at the point with freshman Iman Shumpert getting the majority of the minutes (Maurice Miller just returned for the Maryland game), but this was an issue last season for Paul Hewitt’s team as well. One bright spot has been the play of big man Gani Lawal (16.8 ppg, 10.0 rpg). Lawal, along with Alade Aminu (14 points, 17 boards at Maryland over the weekend), are the two players that the Blue Devils will have at the top of their scouting report, even though Lewis Clinch is capable of putting up numbers on the perimeter.
Clinch and the other backcourt players have at times forgotten about the two big men, resorting to firing up contested shots and bogging down the offense as a result. And given Duke’s desire/ability to pressure ball handlers, it’s crucial that the Yellow Jackets take care of the basketball and not forget about those two big men up front. Another key for the Jackets in possibly pulling the upset will be their commitment on the boards. Duke is one of the nation’s best rebounding teams due to their aggressive nature on the offensive glass, so Georgia Tech will have to execute a move that’s rather basic but separates the conference contenders from the pretenders in many cases: the box out.
Duke may have struggled offensively against the Seminoles, but fans of the team should be encouraged by the recent play of junior swingman Gerald Henderson. He’s been more assertive on the offensive end of the floor while remaining one of the ACC’s best on-ball defenders. Henderson went for twenty-five on Saturday, and he heads in to this game looking to reach double figures for the eighth consecutive game. Also, it’s easy to see either Henderson or Jon Scheyer given the task of guarding Clinch, a player who despite his talent can at times forget that there are four other players on his team. The Blue Devil who stands to face the stiffest test is center Brian Zoubek, who will have to help guard Lawal and Aminu inside. He’s played better in recent weeks, making his short time on the court (14.5 mpg) productive instead of merely taking up space, but this game will be a true test of his growth.
But at the end of the day, it’s very difficult to see this Georgia Tech team beating Duke in the “Thriller Dome”. Iman Shumpert is a very talented young player, and the return of Mo Miller will help in the backcourt, but he hasn’t seen ball pressure like the brand that Duke will bring to the table. Look for Duke to win and keep pace with Clemson atop the ACC standings.
Winner: Duke Margin: 10-14 pts.
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About Raphielle Johnson
College sports has always been a source of excitement for Raphielle Johnson, be it through watching, writing, or taking a shot in the dark and walking onto a college football team just to live the life (Arizona Football, 2001). Raphielle is the assistant editor, providing his own work in addition to helping out with the site operations. When not writing for CHN, you can usually find him in front of a television set watching one of many pay-per-view sports packages that he owns. He can be followed at twitter.com/raphiellej.
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