Georgia Tech-Duke Preview
Already without one key player, Duke is confident another one can play through his injury when it tries to bounce back from its first loss.
The third-ranked Blue Devils expect guard Seth Curry to play Thursday night when they look to get back on track and continue their dominance over visiting Georgia Tech, the only ACC team without a league win.
Playing its first game minus 6-foot-11 senior Ryan Kelly (13.4 points, 5.4 rebounds per game), who is out indefinitely with a foot injury, Duke lost 84-76 at then-No. 20 North Carolina State on Saturday. While the defeat dropped the Blue Devils (15-1, 2-1) from the No. 1 spot in the AP poll, they hope it didn't leave them further short-handed after Curry missed the final minutes with a left ankle sprain.
"It's not a juggernaut and has not been," coach Mike Krzyzewski told Duke's official website about his team. "Hopefully we can keep the ship afloat and traveling in the right direction."
Krzyzewski would like to have Curry steering that ship.
The team's second-leading scorer at 16.4 points per game, Curry missed a game in December with an injury to the same ankle and continues to manage a right shin problem. He had a team-high 22 points Saturday and is 10 of 21 from 3-point range during ACC play.
"He's been remarkable, he just doesn't practice much, he can't," said Krzyzewski, who planned to rest Curry on Wednesday. "He's been remarkable how he's done it.
"We have to try to keep our timing, and his timing together. Try to play at the top level, which we've been pretty much able to do the whole season."
If the Blue Devils hope to remain at that level, they may need new starter Josh Hairston and backup Amile Jefferson to play well in place of Kelly. That pair combined for 18 points and nine rebounds Saturday.
"We're not a great team with Ryan, we're a really good team, but we're better than our parts when we have them all together," Krzyzewski said.
Star Mason Plumlee had his conference-best 10th double-double with 15 points and 11 boards Saturday, but his 11.5 scoring average in four games this month is eight below his average through December.
Duke also hopes freshman Rasheed Sulaimon can regain his scoring touch while Kelly is out. Sulaimon has shot 9 for 40 (22.5 percent) over the past five games while averaging 6.4 points, about half his average through the first 11 games.
Despite a banged-up roster, the Blue Devils should have a good chance to take care of Georgia Tech (10-5, 0-3). A winner in four straight and 28 of 31 overall against the Yellow Jackets, Duke has won five consecutive meetings at Cameron Indoor Stadium by an average of 16.0 points since losing 76-68 on March 3, 2004. That is Georgia Tech's lone victory in its last 13 trips to Durham.
Kelly scored 21 and Curry added 15 in Duke's 81-74 win at Georgia Tech in the lone meeting last season.
The Yellow Jackets are off to their worst start in conference play since opening 0-6 in 2008-09 and have dropped nine straight road games. Georgia Tech, which fell 70-65 in overtime at home to Virginia Tech on Saturday, has shot 35.5 percent and averaged 61.3 points in three league contests.
Freshman swingman Marcus Georges-Hunt averages a team-leading 10.9 points but 8.7 in conference action while shooting 37.5 percent. He's missed 13 of his last 14 3-point attempts.