DURHAM – With his star player in a slump and his team’s offense lumbering, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski implored the Cameron Indoor Stadium crowd to have an effect on the game.
Krzyzewski stood up, screamed and raised his arms, calling for more noise 17 seconds after halftime.
The crowd and his team received the message.
No. 16 Duke ripped off a quick run shortly after Krzyzewski’s call for energy and Georgia Tech never came closer than five points again, eventually falling, 79-57, on Tuesday.
“It seemed dead. We didn’t have the life we normally have,” Krzyzewski said of the first half. “... Still, we were up one (at halftime), but if it kept going that way, we weren’t gonna win this game.”
In the first half, Duke, playing in its first game ranked outside the top 10 since 2007, did not look like a team that regularly scores 80 points. The Blue Devils (12-3, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) had little movement in halfcourt, no help from fastbreak points, and they took a one-point lead into halftime simply by measure of good free-throw shooting, hitting 14 of 16 attempts in the first half.
Conversely, the Yellow Jackets (9-6, 0-2 ACC) were efficient in the first 20 minutes, making half their field goals and preventing Duke from doing any damage in transition.
“I think we were a little sluggish to start out the game,” said Duke forward Amile Jefferson, who had a game-high 10 rebounds. “We really didn’t have any enthusiasm to start the game. In the second half, it really came full circle.”
Duke changed the game rapidly and permanently in the second half. Rasheed Sulaimon hit a jump shot, Quinn Cook hit a three-pointer and slumping Jabari Parker fought through a crowd to make a tough lay-up for a quick 7-0 burst and 10-point lead just more than three minutes into the half.
Then it became the Rodney Hood Program for the rest of the game. Hood hit all five of his three-point attempts in the second half, eventually finishing with 27 points.
Krzyzewski said a suggestion by assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski to involve Hood in a ball screen accounted for four of them.
“My teammates did a great job of getting into the lane, and they converged, especially when I was at the four spot,” Hood said. “They left me open. I give credit to Quinn, Rasheed and Andre (Dawkins) for finding me when I was wide open on that left wing, and I just knocked down shots.”
By Hood’s fifth made three of the half, his teammates on the bench were openly laughing at the hot streak.
“I’m a fan of basketball, and when you see somebody on their heat streak, you always want to see them do well, especially one of your friends,” Parker said. “It’s always good seeing Rodney catching fire because he’s a good shooter.”
It was the defensive side, though, that Duke felt changed the game. Jefferson did a superb job on talented Georgia Tech center Daniel Miller in the second half, holding him to one rebound and enticing him into 1-for-5 shooting in the final 19 minutes.
“It was a really different game in the second half,” Krzyzewski said. “We just hit on a lineup that was able to defend.”
Marcus Georges-Hunt led the Yellow Jackets with 18 points, while Miller had 14.
On Georgia Tech’s side, there was a feeling the officiating had been one-sided.
Duke attempted 25 free throws compared to Georgia Tech’s six. The Yellow Jackets went the entire 40 minutes without a free throw. Yellow Jackets coach Brian Gregory only gave credit to Duke.
“Every decision is so important when you play a team like Duke on the road,” Gregory said. “They take advantage of every mistake you make and that’s something we need to improve on.”
Duke beat Georgia Tech for the 14th time out of the past 15 meetings at Cameron Indoor Stadium and improved to 22-1 in games following a loss since the 2009-10 season.
While the Blue Devils did win, many of them felt their poor first half needs correction.
“Everything we do isn’t pretty. We’re not going to play well all the time,” Hood said. “But if we play like we played in the second half, we’ll be fine. We can’t come out like that, especially on the road. It’ll come back to bite us at times, so we gotta fix that.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz@ rmtelegram.com