No. 2 Duke comes off extended layoff to face Georgia Tech

·3 min read

Duke hasn't played since Dec. 22. But the second-ranked Blue Devils will return to action Tuesday night when they host Georgia Tech in Durham, N.C.

The Devils (11-1, 1-0 ACC) have been idle since they beat Virginia Tech 76-65 in that Dec. 22 game. That capped a stretch of four wins in nine days, all at home.

Then came another hiatus. Road games against Clemson and Notre Dame were called off because of COVID-19 protocol within the Duke program, but the Blue Devils are scheduled to return to the court this week.

It creates an unsettling time for Duke, though coach Mike Krzyzewski said his players have learned to navigate the uneven nature of the schedule. Still, it's unclear when some of the newcomers will adjust to all of this.

"They're not veterans yet, and they might not be veterans until March, if they even are by that time," Krzyzewski said.

Georgia Tech (6-6, 0-2) might be an ideal opponent at this stage for Duke because the Yellow Jackets have had an uneven recent stretch as well.

Georgia Tech fell 67-64 on Sunday night to visiting Louisville. That was the first game since the Yellow Jackets defeated Georgia State in overtime on Dec. 21.

"Great opportunity for us to bounce back on Tuesday against a great team in Duke," Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said. "Hopefully, this game got us our wind back."

Ten players have been used in each of Georgia Tech's past two games, so digging into the depth has been a strategy for Pastner, who pointed out he has concerns about the conditioning of his team. The latest starting lineup included sophomore Jordan Meka, who made his first collegiate start.

"All you can ask for in the game of basketball is to have a chance to win the game, and we had chances," Pastner said. "We battled and competed."

Pastner said Saba Gigiberia could be back for the game at Duke after missing three games in protocol.

When there was a two-week layoff for Duke following a loss at Ohio State, Krzyzewski said it would be important to focus on the current situation.

"We have to be in this moment," he said. "The main thing is getting back into shape."

That approach figures to apply to the latest schedule upheaval.

Georgia Tech has failed to shoot better than 46.3 percent in any of its past seven games. It posted a 41.1 percent mark in the Louisville game.

Part of Georgia Tech's extended roster use comes from having guard Bubba Parham in action for the first time this season Sunday. He missed time because of preseason knee surgery and then entered the health and safety protocol, so that extended his absence.

"He hasn't played a game in 10 months," Pastner said. "He'll be better. He needed to get in some game experience. ... You have to be flexible and be able to adjust on the fly. We missed some opportunities to be able to get him into some game rhythm. We're into ACC play now, so that's just the way it is."

Pastner said he has tweaked some elements of the offense to try to cut back on turnovers.

"We'll keep tinkering and adjusting the best we can," he said.

--Field Level Media