Georgia Tech upsets No. 7 Duke for first ACC win under coach Damon Stoudamire

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Georgia Tech upset No. 7 Duke 72-68 on Saturday to win its first ACC game under rookie head coach Damon Stoudamire.

Georgia Tech led by as many as 11 points early in the second half, but Duke stormed back in the game’s final few minutes, taking a 66-62 lead on a Mark Mitchell dunk with 2:22 to play. But Mitchell — who pointed at a Georgia Tech player after his dunk — was quickly assessed a technical foul; that gave GT guard Miles Kelly two free throws, both of which he made, and the ball. Kelly’s made basket seconds later tied the game with under two minutes to play.

With the game tied at 68, and 1:18 to play, Duke had the ball and a chance to re-take the lead. But a live-ball Mitchell turnover turned into a pick-and-roll dunk from the Yellow Jackets on the other end.

Duke had the ball with 18.2 seconds left, down 2 points, but did not get a shot off, instead taking a timeout when senior Jeremy Roach got trapped in the lane. Duke then didn’t get a shot off on its final possessions, either.

The win is Georgia Tech’s second straight over a ranked opponent after the Yellow Jackets beat Mississippi State 67-59 on Tuesday in the first ACC-SEC Challenge. It’s the first time the program has beaten consecutive ranked foes since 2017.

Duke, meanwhile, has dropped two games in a row — it lost 80-75 at Arkansas on Wednesday — to fall to 5-3 on the season. The Blue Devils only lost back-to-back games once in Jon Scheyer’s first season.

What’s going on with Duke?

Nothing good right now. Scheyer’s team has struggled much more than expected out of the gate, looking little like the national title contender it was billed as entering this season.

Why? For starters, last season, Scheyer had the biggest team in America. That group — which started just one player under 6 feet 5 — mauled opponents with its size and physicality, and finished ninth nationally in offensive rebounding rate, per KenPom. Duke isn’t small this season — it’s still top-40 in average length nationally — but stylistically, the Blue Devils are much different. With Dereck Lively II off to the NBA, where he now starts for the Dallas Mavericks, Scheyer opted to move 7-foot forward Kyle Filipowski to center; he then replaced Lively in the starting five with 6-foot-3 sharpshooting guard Jared McCain. But Filipowski is best as an inside-out threat, and the team’s lack of a conventional interior option has led to it being out-rebounded on multiple occasions. (Saturday, it tied Georgia Tech 33-33 on the glass.)

Instead, Scheyer hoped to mitigate that with a faster tempo and more 3-point shooting — but neither of those has fully come to fruition. Duke shot 4-for-16 from 3 on Saturday, and its season-long 3-point percentage dropped to 33.3 percent, outside the top 150 nationally. And in terms of average tempo, Duke is barely above the national average; it currently ranks outside the top 150 in that regard, too, per KenPom. (It didn’t help that sophomore point guard Tyrese Proctor rolled his left ankle in the opening minute Saturday and did not return.)

Essentially, Scheyer’s trade-off hasn’t worked so far — and his players, frankly, aren’t exhibiting the best body language on the court. There’s more than enough natural talent here to make a deep postseason run, but it’s time for Scheyer to consider more dramatic changes to both his starting lineup and rotation at large. Personally, I’d like to see more tinkering with combinations of players, including more minutes for athletic freshman forward Sean Stewart.

What’s the significance of Georgia Tech’s win?

Tech was expected to be as bad as any ACC team this season, but Stoudamire has done an excellent job so far making the most out of his roster. The returning guard Kelly has been one of the league’s better scorers, but now he has some help. On Saturday, that was in the form of a breakout game for freshman big Baye Ndongo — a borderline four-star prospect who flipped his commitment from Rutgers to Tech after Stoudamire got the job. Ndongo finished with a game-high 21 points, including the eventual game-winning dunk, as well as five rebounds, four blocks and two assists. Florida transfer Kowacie Reeves chipped in 14 points and four rebounds, too.

For Georgia Tech, this is the kind of stretch that gets a rebuilding team to buy in. And for the ACC at large, it’s also a much-needed boost. Having Tech and Louisville, the league’s two cellar-dwellers last season, be competent (at a minimum) is a good sign for the ACC’s chances of getting more teams in the NCAA Tournament.

Required reading

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(Photo of Kelly: Rich von Biberstein / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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