Duke defeats Georgia Tech despite coach Mike Krzyzewski’s absence

Duke came into its game against Georgia Tech with a double whammy of unfamiliar circumstances.

The Blue Devils were unranked for the first time since 2007.

Then, news came down before the game that coach Mike Krzyzewski would miss a Duke game for the first time since he sat out the second half of the 1995 season following back surgery.

According to a release from the school, Krzyzewski was feeling “under the weather” following a team meal Monday night. He was taken to the hospital and told by doctors to stay home in Durham, North Carolina, instead of traveling with the team down to Atlanta for its game against the Yellow Jackets. He is expected to return to the team soon.

As for the Blue Devils … No ranking and no Coach K? No problem.

The Blue Devils went into Atlanta and defeated Georgia Tech 80-71 behind associate head coach Jeff Capel. As he so often has been this season, Grayson Allen was the star, scoring 27 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out four assists. Brandon Ingram had a rough shooting night, but still put up a solid 14-point, 10-rebound, four-block line. The biggest development though might have been the play of Derryck Thornton. The 6-foot-2 point guard moved back into Duke’s starting lineup, and rewarded the coaching staff with a 15-point, three-assist night that marked the first time he’d gotten into double-figures in ACC play.

Capel knows as well as anyone the effect that losing Krzyzewski can have on a Duke team. After all, he was a member of the 1994-1995 team that Coach K had to depart from following the aforementioned back surgery. Instead of struggling like that group did though — it finished with a 4-15 mark on the season — the Blue Devils rallied around his absence.

Beating Georgia Tech — who fell to 2-7 in the ACC this season — isn’t necessarily anything to write home about. However, any road win undoubtedly would help right the ship for a team that had come into this game losing four of its previous five contests. Who knows where this team goes from here, but it’s off to the right start following some unexpected circumstances that have befallen them.

Grayson Allen led Duke to a win. (USATSI)
Grayson Allen led Duke to a win in ailing Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s absence. (USATSI)

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