for this game

Nelson, Duke avoid collapse against Georgia Tech

Mar 15, 2008 - 6:07 AM CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Ticker) -- A veteran of numerous postseason battles, DeMarcus Nelson got Duke past a pesky foe.

Nelson scored 17 points as seventh-ranked Duke held off Georgia Tech for an 82-70 victory in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament on Friday.

Jon Scheyer had 18 points and Greg Paulus added 13 for the second-seeded Blue Devils (27-4), who will square off with third seed Clemson in Saturday's semifinal.

"It's a good win because it's a step in the right direction for us in accomplishing our goal in winning this thing because that's what we set out to do," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We have to put this game behind us and get ready for tomorrow.

"Clemson has had one of those magical years. (Clemson coach Oliver Purnell) and his kids have played so well and if they won some close games they could have won our league, that's how good they've been."

Shooting a sizzling 64 percent (16-of-25) in the first half, Duke stormed out to a 20-point lead before settling for a 44-29 advantage at the half.

Despite the poor start, the Yellow Jackets hit their stride at the start of the second half, nearly erasing their deficit. Behind the exploits of freshman guard Maurice Miller, Georgia Tech ripped off a 19-2 run, closing within 52-50 with 13:38 to play.

Miller had eight of his 16 points during the burst.

With a youthful roster that is not used to winning in the postseason, the Blue Devils appeared unprepared for the push by the Yellow Jackets.

"I tried to tell our kids after the game that this is the way the postseason is," Krzyzewski said. "Nobody wants to go away; you have to put them away."

Nelson stayed steadfast despite the shrinking lead, splitting two free throws before knocking down one of his two 3-pointers to halt the Yellow Jackets' momentum.

"He was just being a senior," Georgia Tech senior forward Jeremis Smith said. "He knew this was his last ACC tournament, just like Anthony Morrow and myself. He just knew he had to turn to his team and be a senior and a captain out there like he is."

That was the start of a 12-4 run for the Blue Devils, who opened another double-digit lead at 64-54 on another basket from the arc by Nelson with 10:26 to play. Scheyer also was fouled attempting a 3-pointer during run, making all three foul shots.

"They made some plays," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said of game-changing push. "There were a couple of loose balls in the middle of the floor that I thought we had. Give them credit.

"One of the things I talked about before the game was the live ball turnovers. (Duke) and Kansas are the two teams that turn turnovers into points as fast as anybody in the country and that was something we really wanted to stay away from."

That burst by the Blue Devils took away a lot of the confidence for Georgia Tech (15-17), which could not get the game back into single digits thereafter.

Or it may have been fatigue as the Yellow Jackets were coming off a 94-76 victory over Virginia on Thursday.

"I don't think that had anything to do with it," Hewitt said about fatigue. "It was a game where the balls were right there. We were energetic and we distributed our minutes pretty well tonight. Even though last night Anthony (Morrow) and Jeremis (Smith) played over 30 minutes, the rest of our guys didn't play a great deal of minutes."

Nelson finished 7-of-13 from the field, grabbed nine rebounds and handed out a career high-tying seven assists for Duke, which beat Georgia Tech for the 11th time in the last 12 meetings.

"The way that we play is to drive and kick and penetrate the defense and kick out," Nelson said explaining his assist total. "That is playing to my strength, being the driver, and all the shooters that we have spacing the court out, those guys get shots."

Miller finished 4-of-12 from the field and Zack Peacock scored 13 points for the Yellow Jackets, who had a three-game winning streak snapped.