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February 22, 2006No records fell on Wednesday night in Atlanta but Duke did survive a serious threat from Georgia Tech to pull off another ACC victory and improve to 26-1 overall.
Many were taking a Duke win for granted entering the contest at Alexander Coliseum. Instead the focus centered on whether or not J.J. Redick would get the needed 31 points to become the ACC's all time scoring leader.
For most of the night, Redick was off the mark, and the focus quickly turned to just winning the game as Duke had to overcome an 11 point second half deficit to manage a road win over a determined Georgia Tech team.
Shelden Williams' picked up the slack for Redick, who had just four points at halftime as Duke found themselves down 39-34.
Williams paced all scorers with an incredible 26 point, 11 rebound performance to keep Georgia Tech from pulling off the home upset.
Duke's lackluster defense in the first 20 minutes was probably more to blame for the deficit than was Redick's cold shooting night, which ended at 5-of-21 from the floor.
The Yellow Jackets shot better than 70 percent from the floor in the first half, and not because they were just hot from the field. Duke looked heavy legged for much of the opening half, allowing the Jackets easy lanes and easy baskets.
This would not be a repeat of the season's lone loss at Georgetown, however.
Two key moments turned the tide in the second half.
Still looking lethargic and not earning many trips to the foul line, Duke's deficit peaked at 47-36 shortly after Mike Krzyzewski picked up a technical foul at the 18:54 mark.
Jeremis Smith scored on the next Tech possession after the technical to push the lead to 11, which is when Duke began to lock down on defense.
Duke's next possession started the comeback, as Williams grabbed an offensive rebound off a three pointer miss from Redick and scored while getting fouled.
The three point play started an 11-0 run that tied the score at 47-47 with 13:31 to play.
Georgia Tech responded with another quick run to regain temporary momentum, answering Duke's 11-0 run with a quick six unanswered points to go back up 53-47, finishing the quick spurt with a huge slam by Smith on a two-on-one fast break.
The second major turn happened shortly thereafter, when Redick missed an open layup in transition that would have tied the game. Josh McRoberts flew in as a trailer to slam home the miss to knot the score.
Not only did that play get the game even again, but it served as a line of demarcation for Redick. It was as if the senior decided that missing a layup was the final straw, because he suddenly found his shooting stroke again.
Redick buried a 17 footer from the right wing and a three pointer from the left wing on back to back possessions to push Duke out to a 58-53 lead with 8:12 to go.
The Yellow Jackets closed to within three one time after that sequence, but Duke opened up a double digit lead in the game's waning minutes, as Redick still managed to score 22 points thanks to a strong finish and an 11-of-12 night from the foul line.
Duke got better point guard play from Greg Paulus as the game wore on as well. Though the freshman was absent from the scoring column, he distributed eight assists and was charged with just one turnover, as he several times made correct reads in the halfcourt to get Williams and McRoberts easy opportunities as the Jackets hedged everything toward Redick.
Despite the poor first half defense, Duke still forced 20 Georgia Tech turnovers and turned them into 22 points on the other end, compared to just nine Yellow Jacket points off of 11 Duke turnovers.
That 13 point margin more than covered the final 73-66 spread, as Duke was just good enough to pass another ACC road test.
Focus now shifts to Saturday's non conference tilt at Temple, where Redick will almost certainly become the ACC's all time leading scorer and Duke will look to go to 27-1 overall.
Smith led the Yellow Jackets with 18 points on the night.