5 things to know before Georgia Tech-Duke

Forward Quinton Stephens' 16 points gave the Jackets a huge lift. (Special to the AJC/Mikki K. Harris)

Forward Quinton Stephens had a quietly effective game against Syracuse, with three points on two shots and six rebounds in 16 minutes. (Special to the AJC/Mikki K. Harris)

Previewing Georgia Tech’s ACC matchup with Duke, Tuesday night at McCamish Pavilion at 9 p.m. It will be televised on ESPNU and streamed online on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app. Tickets are still available on the Tech website, ranging between $60 and $180.

Amile Jefferson out

Duke will be without forward Amile Jefferson, who has been out the past 12 games with a right foot fracture. The Blue Devils were 8-1 with him in the lineup but 7-5 since. Jefferson, a 6-foot-9 forward, was averaging 11.4 points and 10.3 rebounds at the time of the injury. Without him, coach Mike Krzyzewski has shortened his rotation to six players with only one traditional post player, Marshall Plumlee.

In ACC play, Krzyzewski has given a total of 35 minutes to players past his first six. By comparison, Tech coach Brian Gregory has often gone 10 deep in games.

Opportunity for the Jackets

As such, the Blue Devils are as vulnerable as they ever get. They fell out of the Associated Top 25 this week for the first time in more than eight years. They are 4-4 in the ACC, with losses to Clemson, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Miami. (The first three losses were by a combined 11 points.)

Three of their six-man rotation are freshmen. They’re an uncharacteristic 144th in adjusted defensive efficiency.

A team with only one post man that Krzyzewski is comfortable with using for more than a few minutes per game stands to be a considerable advantage for Tech, which goes four deep. To the best that it’s possible against a zone, getting Plumlee in foul trouble should be among Tech’s highest priorities.

“We’ll just wear him down the whole game and by the second half, hopefully we’ve got him to our advantage,” Tech forward Charles Mitchell said.

That said, Duke is still No. 27 in RPI and is smoking offensively. The Blue Devils are rated No. 1 in adjusted offensive efficiency. They’ll also have had a week to prepare for Tech.

“They’re not a top-25 team?” Gregory asked Monday. “Come on. Give me a break.”

Series history

A win would be Gregory’s first over Duke against five losses, and Tech’s first since Jan. 2010. The Blue Devils have won the past eight in the series, 12 of the past 13, 17 of the past 19 and 32 of the past 35.

“I want to beat everybody, but, playing Duke, I would love to beat Duke,” guard Marcus Georges-Hunt said.

Two big factors

Duke’s free-throw rate and Tech’s second-chance and transition scoring could go a long way to determining the outcome. In their three most recent games, the Blue Devils averaged .24 free throws per field-goal attempt, a pretty tepid rate, particularly for Duke. In the five ACC games before that, Duke was averaging .45 free throws per field-goal.

Tech, you may have read previously, has encountered some difficulty keeping opponents off the line. The Jackets’ eight ACC opponents have averaged .47 free throws per field-goal try while Tech’s rate has been .31. It’s not a small factor in their 2-6 record.

In eight ACC games, the Jackets have 113 second-chance points on 104 offensive rebounds. Gregory has said previously that the goal is to have one point per offensive rebound. That said, Tech has missed a number of chances either by not going up strong enough immediately or trying for the putback when kicking the ball out would be wiser.

“When we’re around the basket, either on a post move or after an offensive rebound, we need to explode to the rim,” Gregory said. “Because that’s our opportunity to put it in or get fouled. Each guy, one more a game. That’s all we’re talking about. I don’t need some guy to shoot 80 percent. We just need one more a game.”

In transition, Tech players often haven’t gone hard enough to the rim or have opted for pull-up jumpers or just missed layup tries in traffic.

“I feel like we have to go in there and at least try to finish stronger instead of going in there and probably throwing something up,” Georges-Hunt said.

Jorgenson watch

Tech point guard Travis Jorgenson has not played for the past two games. He also did not get into the Virginia game and he played just four minutes against Notre Dame. Prior to the start of the ACC season, he was unavailable for the VCU game due to injury, but played between 13 and 23 minutes in 11 of the other 12 games.

His decreased role is due to Georges-Hunt taking on the point guard spot, which pushes Josh Heath and Jorgenson down a peg. Jorgenson started the last game he played, his only start of the season, and went 21 minutes against Louisville.

“We only went with the traditional point guard out there (against Syracuse) 15 minutes,” Gregory said. “Like I’ve said, I think there’s going to be some games where you play 40 minutes with those guys (Heath and Jorgenson) and some games, it’s less than that.”

One extra

Krzyzewsky’s evaluation of Tech:

“I think they’re a lot better than they were last year. I think they’re really good. Like a few teams in our league, there are a number of teams in our league that you’re a few possessions from being a couple of games over .500 and a few possession between being two or three below (.500). They’ve lost some really tough games but they’ve been in every game. I think they’ve done a really good job. I really like Brian. I think he’s a hell of a coach and a great guy. … They show up to play all the time and he’s put them in a position to win. That’s what I look at in coaching. Does a coach have a system and keep his team up and are they in position to win each time they play. Certainly, Georgia Tech has done that.”

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