Incredible. The freshman came in today only playing two games so far where he combined for 10 points. Today he was easily the best player on the floor in a game with a top-10 team. He put up 21 points on 9-11 shooting. It wasn’t just dunks either (though oh boy were there some dunks) he also hit a three pointer early and a nifty lefty hook. He had 4 blocks, several of them absolute monsters. He made Duke think twice inside. Oh and he did all that despite going out twice for injuries. What an insane game for him.
This game had a lot of parallels with the Mississippi State upset earlier this week. GT jumped out to an early lead and slowly extended it throughout the first half and into the early second half. But unlike Mississippi State, the Blue Devils were able to come all the way back and even take the lead under 3 minutes left. Then the pivotal moments in the game happened. With the game tied at 62 Duke got buckets on back-to-back possessions by way of dunks from Mark Mitchell. After the second one Mitchell yelled and pointed at Miles Kelly which the refs called for taunting. Kelly made both of the technical free throws then hit a runner to tie it back up on one possession.
Then the freshmen took over. On GT’s next two possessions Ndongo ran a pick and roll with Naithan George and both ended with Ndongo getting an alley-oop for the score. That put GT up 2 and a Duke turnover followed by a foul put Naithan George on the line with 20 seconds left. He missed the front end of the 1-and-1 and Duke called a timeout. The Blue Devils ran a play for Jeremy Roach, but excellent defense by Miles Kelly forced Roach to pick up his dribble in the lane and call a timeout with 5 seconds left. Roach actually travelled, but the refs did not call it. Duke ran another play for Roach who ran into a wall of GT defenders and had to put up a shot which Ndongo blocked. Miles Kelly was fouled and hit both free throws to put it away.
Ndongo was easily the player of the game, but a few other players deserve kudos. Miles Kelly didn’t have the best ever game, but he made some huge plays down the stretch and was a consistent veteran presence. He also put up 16 points on 5-13 shooting. Naithan George had his breakout against Mississippi State and I thought he played great again today despite putting up only 2 points on 1-6 shooting and missing that clutch free throw. He also put up 9 assists and made the flow so much better than when he was out of the game. And all of the big men did a fantastic job on defense. They held Kyle Filipowski, one of the best players in the country, to just 12 points on 4-9 shooting. I thought size was going to be a major issue for this team, but they have held their own down low against two ranked teams in a row.
Duke was led by Kyle Filipowski, who was a major presence inside on defense, and Jeremy Roach, who had 20 points on 6-12 shooting. Duke’s starting shooting guard, Tyrese Proctor got hurt just 1 minute into the game, but their backup Caleb Foster played well in his stead.
This was the first ever time that GT students stormed the court at McCamish. This has been such a massive turnaround from a week ago. GT was coming off a home loss to UMass-Lowell and an absolute drubbing at Cincinnati. Then this week they beat #23 Mississippi State and #7 Duke. Damon Stoudamire agrees. After the game he said “After Cincinnati, they could’ve rolled over. But instead they chose to roll their sleeves up.” This team looks so much different with Nait George and Baye Ndongo playing big minutes. They are both game changers. A week ago I was resigned to waiting until year 2 for Damon Stoudamire to really improve the team. Now I think this team has a shot at the NCAA Tournament.
Georgia Tech now takes their momentum to Athens on Tuesday at 7:30. This finishes up the Yellow Jackets tough non-conference stretch. This is a huge game for this team. A win would be a devastating notice that this team isn’t quite there yet.