Duke hasn’t lost two straight games in nearly three years, and there’s little reason to believe struggling Georgia Tech will make that happen as the team’s open ACC play Saturday at the Philips Arena in Atlanta.
The fifth-ranked Blue Devils (12-2) are coming off a surprising 78-73 loss at unranked Temple on Wednesday as only two starters scored more than six points.
Mason Plumlee scored 16 and grabbed 13 rebounds, while brother Miles Plumlee had 17 points. The sibling shot a combined 15 of 24, but the other eight Blue Devils totaled only 40 points - shooting 13 for 35 - and 12 rebounds.
Freshman Austin Rivers scored 12 points for Duke, which hasn’t lost back-to-back games since Feb. 11 and 15, 2009.
”We were slow and they played a lot harder than we did,” Rivers said. ”Every 50-50 ball, they got them. They just outhustled us. We have a great team, but we just didn’t fight.”
The loss also came as a surprise to coach Mike Krzyzewski, who tried to make light of the situation following the game.
”If I saw it coming, I would have faked an illness, instead of getting ill during the game,” Krzyzewski said.
The Blue Devils have lost both of their road games - the other an 85-63 defeat at then-No. 2 Ohio State on Nov. 29 - and head into their ACC opener having lost their last two conference road games of 2010-11.
Duke, though, shouldn’t have too much a problem bouncing back against Georgia Tech (7-7), which is going through a rough transition under first-year coach Brian Gregory. The situation hasn’t been helped by splitting home games at Philips Arena and the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga., while its new arena is being constructed.
The Yellow Jackets have lost three straight games after being blown out 73-48 against Alabama on Tuesday, their worst offensive output this season.
That defeat follows a 65-59 home loss to Mercer on Dec. 22, and a 72-66 defeat at Fordham on Dec. 29.
Kammeon Holsey scored 14 points, while Glen Rice Jr. scored only five on 2-for-7 shooting in 22 minutes.
Gregory did not start Rice, who leads the team averaging 12.5 points, after the junior went scoreless against Fordham.
Georgia Tech committed 22 turnovers compared to only 12 assists, dropping it to 265th in the country - and 11th in the conference - with a 0.77 assist-to-turnover ratio.
“It just puts you in a difficult situation if you start off the game and you give your opponent 22 possessions without having one,” Gregory said. “That’s the equivalent of the turnovers that make it difficult to be successful. “
Duke’s defense forced a season-high 18 turnovers against Temple, but it allowed the Owls to shoot 56.4 percent. In their last four losses including postseason play, Blue Devils’ opponents have shot at least 52.4 percent.
The Yellow Jackets haven’t shot better than 43.4 percent in their last four games.
Duke has won three straight and 27 of 30 meetings since 1997, with Georgia Tech last winning 71-67 on Jan. 9, 2010.
The Blue Devils won the last meeting 79-57 on Feb. 20. Mason Plumlee had nine points and nine rebounds, while Rice scored 12 points but shot only 4 of 14.