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Duke Basketball: 3 takeaways from crushing overtime loss to Georgia Tech

Mar 2, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Jaemyn Brakefield (5) shoots over Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets forward Moses Wright (5) in the first half at McCamish Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 2, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Jaemyn Brakefield (5) shoots over Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets forward Moses Wright (5) in the first half at McCamish Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /
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Duke Basketball Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Duke Basketball Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports /

3. In what has been a weakness for Duke, FTs were the difference-maker against Georgia Tech

Despite their woes on the season, there are not as many teams as efficient on the offensive end as the Blue Devils.  They maintain the 15th-most efficient offense in all of Div. I – second best in the ACC – and rank in the top 100 nationally in 3P% and 2P%, which are both top-four in the conference.

Where Duke’s offense falls off substantially – and where it did against Georgia Tech, as well – is from the free-throw line, which has been a significant weakness for the Blue Devils all season.  To put it into context: the Blue Devils see 32.9% (112th) of their offense come from three-pointers and 54.0% (73rd) from two-pointers.  Meanwhile, just 13.0% of their point distribution comes from free-throws – which is fifth from last in all of college basketball, at 344th.

The Blue Devils take just 14.2 free-throws per game and make 9.9 of them, ranking 327th and 328th in the country, respectively.  Their FT% is not that much better, at 69.3% – which ranks 223rd.  To add fuel onto the fire: their lack of free-throw usage has cost them games, including against Georgia Tech.

Of Duke’s 10 losses, four of them have been decided by free-throws.  Against Notre Dame, North Carolina, Louisville, and Pittsburgh – four of Duke’s last seven losses – the Blue Devils actually outscored all four foes from the floor.  They lost all four games at the charity stripe, however, with those four teams going a combined 73-103.  By contrast, Duke – in those four games – is just 29-43 on freebies.

And now, Georgia Tech can be added to that list.  The Blue Devils outscored the Yellow Jackets from the floor, 67-64 – but fell short at the free-throw line, going 10-17 to GT’s mark of 17-23.  That, ultimately, was the difference-maker – and continued an ongoing struggle for the Blue Devils.

dark. Next. Latest top-25 power rankings

Again, it does not get any easier for Duke moving forward.  They will now have to take on a North Carolina team that is also fighting for an at-large bid on Saturday – on the road.  The Blue Devils have already lost to UNC this season, back in a 91-87 loss on February 6th – and now, with both coming off extremely disappointing losses, tensions will undoubtedly be high as the ACC Tournament approaches.

If the Blue Devils hope to have any at-large hope left, they need to address these problems immediately – or their dream may ultimately come to its end against the Tar Heels.